Britain's first Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ) has been launched in Oxford.
Launching as a pilot, the streets included in the ZEZ are: New Road, between Bonn Square and its junction with Castle Street; Bonn Square; Queen Street; Cornmarket Street; New Inn Hall Street; Shoe Lane; Market Street, from Cornmarket junction east for 40 metres; Ship Street; and St Michael’s Street.
The ZEZ pilot will allow Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council to gain useful insights before introducing a larger ZEZ covering most of Oxford city centre next year (2023), subject to further public consultation.
The ZEZ pilot will operate from 7am - 7pm, all year around. All petrol and diesel vehicles, including hybrids, will incur a daily charge unless eligible for a discount or exemption. However, zero emission vehicles, such as electric cars, can enter the pilot area free of charge.
The charge will vary from £2 to £10 per day depending on the emission levels of the vehicle. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras have been installed to enforce the zone.
A range of exemptions and discounts are available for businesses and residents in the zone.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council, said: “The start of the zero emission zone pilot is a landmark event for the city of Oxford and our journey to tackle toxic air pollution and reduce our carbon emissions.
“For five years the City Council and I have been engaging with businesses and citizens to develop the zero emission zone, and I want to thank everyone for sharing their passion for cleaner air and knowledge about how to pragmatically achieve it. We will be using the learnings from this pilot to inform the expansion of the zone to the wider city centre in 2023.”
Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The ZEZ pilot is a very important step towards our aim of moving towards a zero carbon transport system in the county. I want to thank all the residents and businesses who sent us their feedback and worked with us as we developed the pilot.
“Over the next year we will learn from this pilot and continue working with our communities before expanding the ZEZ. Poor air quality is a public health risk for everyone. The ZEZ will reduce toxic air pollution in our city and while making Oxford a safer, cleaner and better place for people who live and work here and for those who visit.”
ZEZ charges for driving a polluting vehicle can be paid up to six days in advance, on the day the vehicle is driven in the zone, and up to six days after the vehicle has been driven inside the zone.
Funds raised by the ZEZ will be used to cover implementation and running costs of the scheme. Any remaining funds will be used to help residents and businesses make the transition to zero emission vehicles, and on other schemes that promote zero and low emission transport in the city.
The council says that transport emissions currently account for 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Oxford.
Over the past few years, air pollution levels in the city have plateaued following a period of significant improvements in air quality, due in part to the introduction of a low emission zone for buses in 2014 and government funding to install cleaner bus engines.