Oxford unveils plans for zero emission zone

Oxford City Centre Set To Become First Place In UK To Ban All Petrol And Diesel Vehicles

In banning all internal combustion engine vehicles, the city is establishing what it says is the first zero-emissions zone in the world. Over 40,000 deaths a year in the United Kingdom are caused by air pollution according to a 2016 report by the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Whilst London is rolling out an "ultra low emission zone", which will see the most gas-guzzling vehicles pay daily charges to enter the city center from 2020, Oxford's "Zero Emission Zone" will ban emitting vehicles from entering part of the city center from that date. It would apply to all vehicles - including taxis and buses, with the plan being to start by restricting the inner city centre, before expanding outwards in two waves in 2025 and 2030.

The proposals aim to slash air pollution in the historic university city, which has seen levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide plateau above legal limits in some areas. Oxfordshire county council councillor Yvonne Constance said: "We want to hear from everyone who uses the city centre, including businesses, bus and taxi firms and local residents, so that we get the fullest possible picture".

Despite NO2 levels dropping by 36.9 per cent across Oxford, certain parts of the city centre are still highly polluted.

It has been calculated that this would take air pollution levels in Oxford city centre down to near-background levels.

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While such a dramatic change in the city center's urban design may encourage less driving, thus less greenhouse gas emissions, the zone was inspired by a need to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide, most of which comes from auto exhaust, by three-fourths.

"We support the principle of a Zero Emission Zone in Oxford".

"Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford's residents", said Councillor John Tanner, Oxford City Council Executive Board Member for A Clean and Green Oxford. A step change is urgently needed; the new Zero Emission Zone is that step change.

"This will also mean that local residents who have invested in cleaner hybrid vehicles will now be targeted which seems both unfair and an unwelcome disincentive as the use of these vehicles should be being encouraged".

On Monday (16 October), the city and county councils will launch a six-week public consultation on the proposals - seeking views on the speed of the implementation, and the vehicle types and roads affected.

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