Oxford unveils proposals for city centre zero-emissions zone

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have published proposals on a zero-emission zone (ZEZ) for a city centre, which could be rolled out to a small part of the city by December this year.

Last month, Oxford City Council pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within its own operations by the end of 2020

Last month, Oxford City Council pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within its own operations by the end of 2020

The two councils have issued final draft proposals for a ZEZ that will aim to reduce air pollution levels, improve the health and wellbeing of residents and respond to the declaration of a climate emergency.

The new proposals focus on an interim “Red Zone” which will cover a small area of the city centre and will introduce charges for older, more polluting vehicles. The councils will then create a “Green Zone” covering the rest of the city centre in 2021/22, which will offer discounted charges for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council said: “2020 will be a crunch year for our climate and all our futures. We face a climate emergency that threatens all of our futures. For the sake of everyone in Oxford, and especially our children’s lungs, we must clean up the lethal air we’re all breathing. Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone will come into force this year and help make 2020 the year we make a game-changing difference.

“With our strengthened Zero Emission Zone and the introduction of hundreds of supporting charging points, our medieval city is leading the electric vehicle revolution. Our two councils have taken a fresh look at the big idea of charging commuters to drive polluting vehicles in and out of the city centre. And we’re listening to Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change by speeding up our journey to a city-wide Zero Emission Zone.”

A consultation on the ZEZ’s Red Zone will run for the month of January, with the councils looking for feedback on a proposed £10 charge for non-compliant vehicles entering the zone between 7am-7pm. Exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until December 2024 and a 90% discount for residents living in the zone until December 2030 have also be drawn up in the draft proposals and are subject to feedback.

Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages that will drive within the planned ZEZ have agreed on timelines to introduce zero-emission fleets across Oxford and will not be subject to charges.

From January 2020, all Hackney Carriage Vehicles licenced in the city will transition to becoming zero emissions by 2025. Bus companies will also work with the councils to move towards zero emissions by 2035 at the latest.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “I am really pleased that at the start of the New Year we are on track to introduce the Zero Emission Zone in Oxford by the end of 2020. Not only will this project make a huge difference to the quality of life and health of people living and working in the city centre, we are showing that it is possible as we start to respond seriously to the climate emergency. This is a great way to start an important decade of climate action.”

Net-zero councils

Last month, Oxford City Council pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within its own operations by the end of 2020, after residents on the local authority's Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change requested such a move.

The local authority published its response to the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly – created earlier this year, ahead of the launch of the national version.

In its response document, Oxford City Council pledged to become net-zero across its direct operations by the end of 2020, by switching to renewable electricity and investing in offsets for harder-to-abate emissions, such as those from heat.

Elsewhere, Oxford is soon to play host to an “Energy Superhub” - the world’s first transmission-connected 50MW lithium-ion and redox-flow hybrid battery systems as well as a network of 320 ground-source heat pumps.

Matt Mace



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