MPs call for more ‘clean air zones’

The Commons environment committee has called for more ‘clean air zones’, targeting polluting vehicle drivers, to be established across cities in England.

The Committee believes more cities should be given the powers which have been granted to London, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton. The extra authority allows cities to charge a fee for high-pollutive vehicles to discourage such cars from operating in the city centre.

Last year the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) outlined plans to introduce five clean air zones by 2020, after the Supreme Court ordered that it must comply with European Union law limits on nitrogen dioxide in the air.

The clean air zones will only affect older, mainly diesel, buses, lorries, coaches and taxis, but will not apply to private cars. The six cities which have currently been granted extra powers were found to have the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The government maintained the ‘clean air zones’ would reduce pollution in the city centres and encourage the replacement of older vehicles with high emissions.

Committee chairman Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: "Only five cities will have new powers to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones.

"Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action. For example, cities may find it more effective to limit vehicle access at certain times of day or to target specific bus routes rather than adopt blanket access proposals."

A Defra spokesman commented: "Tackling air quality is a priority for this government and our plans set out how we will achieve this through continued investment in clean technologies and by encouraging the uptake of low emission vehicles.

"Cities already have powers to introduce Clean Air Zones, and other air quality schemes, and our plans will require five cities to implement these zones. Later this year we will also consult on a clean air zone framework that will give local authorities the flexibility to make decisions about their own areas while ensuring a co-ordinated approach across the UK."