Coronavirus: Oxford delays zero emission zone

A zero emission zone (ZEZ) due to open in Oxford at the end of the year has been delayed to summer 2021.

Both Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council say they are committed to taking climate action to address the need to reduce emissions and offer residents and visitors a cleaner, healthier and safer environment.

However, with the country dealing with the coronavirus crisis, both councils recognise that businesses and residents across the city, including those in what was to be called the ‘Red Zone’, need to focus all of their attention on managing the current and potential impacts on their trade and way of life.

The councils have therefore decided that during this period of uncertainty, businesses should not be expected to devote time to the detailed logistical planning required for the Oxford ZEZ.

Councillor Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council, said: “We have to get our priorities right at this time, and that means focusing on the immediate concerns of businesses who are key to the success of the zero emission zone and Connecting Oxford.

“We can’t expect businesses who are facing coronavirus challenges right now and potentially for months ahead to prioritise helping to shape the policy or focusing on the logistical planning required for these schemes.”

The decision comes as the scheme was awarded £150,000 funding to purchase Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to assist in the delivery of the Oxford ZEZ. and other cities look to delay the implementation of clean air zones (CAZs).

Birmingham and Leeds have both requested postponements, with Birmingham wanting to delay its CAZ until at least the end of the year.

Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at FTA, said: “As the business organisation representing the logistics sector, FTA supports the decision made by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to postpone the introduction of the ZEZ; we also support Birmingham City Council and Leeds City Council in their requests to government to have their CAZs postponed.

“Delaying the introduction of these schemes will allow businesses operating within the logistics sector to focus their efforts on ensuring the public, supermarkets and other retailers all receive the essential items needed during this pandemic.

“We urge other cities with impending clean air schemes to follow suit; with logistics businesses facing unprecedented demand for food, hygiene products, medicines and other basic items, the right framework must be in place to support these workers through these extraordinary times and to keep the supply chain intact.”

She continued: “FTA fully and wholeheartedly supports the need to improve air quality. It is simply that these schemes pose a major change, and currently our industry cannot undertake the work and planning it needs to do in order to achieve smooth compliance or be certain it has the funds to make these changes.

“As well as the administrative difficulties logistics is experiencing, supplies of technology, equipment and trucks are already being disrupted and more effects are expected. This will further hinder efforts to comply with these schemes and service our cities efficiently.” 

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