We all have the right to clean air, yet millions of people across the UK are breathing toxic air on a daily basis. Recent reports found that outdoor air pollution is causing 40,000 deaths in the UK each year and 274 in Oxfordshire last year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here in Oxford, our mission to clean up polluted air and save lives takes a leap forward with our updating of plans for the world’s first Zero Emission Zone.

As with our original plans, our updated Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) will be introduced in phases between 2020 and 2035. The latest plans will require all 106 Black Cabs licensed in the city to move from 0% electric today to 100% zero-emitting by 2025 and all buses running in the whole city centre to have one of the cleanest (Euro 6) engines by 2020 then be zero emitting by 2035 at the latest.

For everyone else, the Zero Emission Zone has been simplified from three to two zones: an inner ‘red’ zone covering streets around Cornmarket Street and an outer ‘green’ zone covering the whole city centre. From 2020, all non-zero emission cars, vans and lorries will be banned from parking or unloading during the day in the inner zone. And from 2022, vans, lorries and tourist buses may face a penalty if they enter the outer zone, which may expand to cars by 2025. Polluting HGVs are now included in the requirements whereas they were not in the original plans.

A six-week consultation in 2017 prompted more than 750 responses and as a result the City Council has been engaged in a 15 month-long conversation with residents, businesses, transport operators, health experts, local authorities considering similar schemes and other stakeholders. Although the majority supported the principle of a Zero Emission Zone, many raised valid concerns about deliveries to and from businesses within the zone, access to the zone for disabled people, the introduction of electric vehicles within suggested timescales, and the availability and affordability of suitable vehicles and infrastructure. Our updated proposals are a direct response to these concerns and our updated Zero Emission Zone is all the better for it. We will be consulting again on proposals in the autumn.

Do email me if you have further questions (labourred@gmail.com). I’m looking forward to presenting more details about the Zero Emission Zone at an All-Member meeting very soon. Also happy to come to your branches and discuss it in more detail.

Cllr Tom Hayes

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