Drivers of the most polluting diesel cars will have to fork out up to £50 a day, to use their vehicle in central London, when new rules proposed by Westminster Council come into force. Officials are starting a £1 million “schools clean air fund” to pay for temporary road closures outside schools.
Air filters will be installed in classrooms, and trees planted to help absorb pollutants, along with other measures to protect children from pollution. A 50% surcharge will be added to parking fees for diesel vehicles registered before 2015 and will be rolled out from September. The levy will vary across the area, with visitors to the West End paying out £7.35 an hour for pre-2015 diesels and £4.90 for other cars. It could see drivers parking for four hours stumping up more than £50 a day for entering central London, once the the £12.50 Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge and £11.50 Congestion Charge is taken into account. Edmund King, president of the AA, said such policies amounted to a “diesel demonisation tax”, which was crude and unfair. He added: “Many modern diesels are cleaner than older petrol models,” he said. “It would be far more effective to target the 10% of gross polluters that cause 50% of the problem. These are often older buses, taxis and trucks.” A parking surcharge trial in Marylebone found the scheme reduced the number of older diesels visiting the area by 16%. Officials said drivers avoided parking on nearby streets, which cut pollution rather than displacing it. The plans were drawn up after it was found that only two of Westminster’s 87 schools were above the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide. Temporary road closures are also due to be introduced outside at least 20 schools at drop-off and pick-up times. Schools will be for a share of the £1 million fund to fund road markings and signage needed for the closures. Nickie Aiken, the council’s Conservative leader, said 75% respondents to a consultation on the surcharge supported the proposal. She added: “We don’t want to punish drivers but the evidence is overwhelming. We need to take a polluter-pays approach. We know that transport is responsible for half the most deadly emissions in the air and each year 40,000 deaths are linked to pollution.” Camden, Islington and the City of London are among councils that already have diesel parking surcharges.