Oxford city centre zero emissions zone plan 'ridiculous'

Oxford High Street Image copyright David Hallam-Jones
Image caption A low-emissions zone is currently in place in the city centre for buses

A zero-emission zone planned for the centre of Oxford by the county council, has been branded "ridiculous" by the city's authority.

Oxfordshire County Council has proposed a zero-emissions zone for all vehicles from 2020, to improve air quality.

John Tanner, board member for Cleaner, Greener Oxford, said the city council would "oppose any idea" that meant people could not drive into the city.

The Road Haulage Association also called the proposals unworkable.

A low-emissions zone is currently in place in the city centre for buses.

Oxfordshire County Council wants to apply a zero emission zone to all vehicles on a number of roads, with the zone expanding over time as electric vehicle technology develops.

Oxfordshire County Council's proposals

  • A zero-emissions zone applying to all vehicles starting in 2020
  • To start in a "small area", with the roads affected not yet specified
  • To be city-wide by 2035
  • To restrict vehicles that cannot comply with emission standards to Park & Ride sites

Mr Tanner said a "blanket ban" was problematic, especially with the likes of the Westgate shopping centre redevelopment including a large underground car park.

"The idea of banning cars from the city centre is just ridiculous. We've got to look at who the culprits are in producing the pollution.

"They are the buses, and to some extent the lorries and the taxis, they're certainly not the ordinary car, although I think we want to encourage people to use electric cars.

"What the city council will support the county council on is reducing emissions over time."

Nick Payne, of the Road Haulage Association, argued newer lorries were cleaner than cars.

He added: "If you stop lorries coming into the town what you'll have is a multitude of vans and what that will create is even more traffic chaos.

"There are electric lorries around but their range is 45 miles. [This isn't going to work], not the way technology is today."

But Dr Penny Woods, from the British Lung Foundation, said she thought the proposals were ambitious and "really positive".

She said: "We need real action if we are going to clean up the air we breathe, especially for the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of dirty air."

A spokesman for the county council said a total ban on petrol or diesel vehicles from 2020 would only apply on "a small number of roads in the very centre of Oxford".

He added that if technology had not advanced enough by then the council would change its timescales.

The county council will debate the proposals in September, after which there will be a consultation if they are approved.

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