‘Clean Air Zone’: Nottingham could impose camera-controlled charges for polluting vehicles

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Government plans for Nottingham’s clean air zone outline how the city could impose charges for high-polluting vehicles using automatic number plate recognition cameras.

The draft plan to reduce the impact of diesel vehicles and cut pollution quality in several UK cities was published on Friday.

Consultations can now be launched nationally on a range of strategies before final decisions are made on changes which will affect Nottingham.

Some of the proposed guidelines include a new scrappage scheme and charging zones in city centres for vehicles with high emissions, including diesel cars and lorries.

The policy is part of a long-term ambition set out by the Government to have nearly every car and van be zero emission by 2050.

Nottingham is being targeted with the plan because its city centre has some of the worst levels of pollution in the UK.

The Government’s report on the plan reads: “Clean Air Zones improve the urban environment to support public health and the local economy, making cities more attractive places to live, work, do business and spend leisure time.

“They support cities to grow and transition to a low emission economy thus ensuring these benefits are sustainable for the long term.”

Graham Chapman, deputy leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “We will need to consider all the recommendations in the Government’s plan announced today to ensure that any new measures introduced are fair but effective in tackling pollution and reducing congestion.”

The Government is currently developing a scrapping and retrofitting scheme it hopes to have ready later in 2017 that will help determine what retrofitting technologies will deliver the right emission reductions and air quality benefits for vehicles for free entry into a Clean Air Zone.

Local councils have been tasked with setting their own pollution taxes and have been encouraged to develop schemes that aim for the best environmental performance possible.

Charges for entering Clean Air Zones will not be mandatory but certain guidelines have been set to determine who and what vehicles it could affect.

Ultra-low emission vehicles are already being be used to reduce pollution.

The Government has also proposed that automatic number plate recognition cameras – similar to technology which enforces speed on some roads – could be used in Clean Air Zones to enforce and identify vehicles for the charges.

Any charging zones set up by a local council would have to include a grace period in which people have time to make changes to comply with the new zones – as long as the time schedule does not lead to more ‘ongoing health impacts of pollution’.

Lorries, busses and frequent users of city centre roads like taxis will face city zone charges in the new proposals but it is still not known how much the charge will be.

Fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will not be charged and discounts are proposed for vehicles within certain criteria like historic and blue badge cars.

Vehicles that comply to a minimum Euro Standard 22 and have emission levels under a set level will also be allowed free entry into zones.

For residents already living inside Clean Air Zones some exceptions will be made because “by the simple virtue of their location they not have the choice open to others of avoiding a zone when in a vehicle”, the Government said.

Residents in that zone will have a discounted period of up to 100 per cent until 2027 to comply with the vehicle restriction requirements outlined.

Councillor Chapman added: “We’re already doing a lot in Nottingham to tackle air pollution.

“Our long-term transport strategy is not to penalise car drivers, it’s to keep the city moving, reducing congestion and pollution by offering people good alternatives to the car, including electric trams and buses.

“Nottingham and other cities have previously called for a diesel scrappage scheme to be introduced. We believe any scheme should also cover buses, taxis and council fleets as well as private vehicles.

“Pollution in cities and towns is a major problem that needs to be taken seriously. It’s vital that the Government plays its full part, particularly in tackling the source of pollution with the manufacture of diesel cars. The onus for dealing with air pollution shouldn’t be on local councils alone but that is what the Government is trying to do.”

The Government is currently seeking views on the proposals before its final plan is published on July 31.

All final decisions will be taken by the incoming government.

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