The historic university city proposes to ban emitting vehicles in stages. Taxis, cars, light commercial and buses will be restricted access to a small number of streets in 2020, before the 2035 ban of all vehicle types across the whole city centre.

Oxford City Councillor John Tanner said: “Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford’s residents. A step change is urgently needed; the zero-emission zone is that step change.

“All of us who drive or use petrol or diesel vehicles through Oxford are contributing to the city’s toxic air. Everyone needs to do their bit – from national Government and local authorities, to businesses and residents – to end this public health emergency.”

Public consultation

Parts of Oxford city centre are failing to meet the EU’s legal air pollution limit, with average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels falling by just 3.9% between 2014 and 2016. It is hoped the proposals will lead to dramatic reductions, with the city’s most polluted street, George Street, expected to see a 74% fall in NO2.

A six-week consultation from Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council will seek views from local residents, businesses and fleet operators on the speed of implementation, and the vehicle types and roads affected.

The City Council recognises the need for further funding to install EV charging infrastructure in the city. To date, the Government has provided Oxford £1.3m to install charging points for electric taxis and cars. Other schemes such as reduced parking fees for EVs and electric delivery vehicle-only loading areas are under consideration, the City Council said.

In July, the Government committed to the phase-out of new car sales for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. The surprise news came after Sadiq Khan announced that London will have the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019 – a year ahead of schedule.

Low-carbon Leeds

This week also marked the trial launch of a new fully electric double-decker bus in Leeds. The 150-mile range Metrodecker EV is being piloted as part of local bus operator First Leeds’s commitment to invest £71m in 284 new ultra-low emissions buses for the city.

Leeds City Council Councillor Richard Lewis heralded the move as the start of a “revolution in bus travel”.

He said: “It is very pleasing to see this, locally-built, first fully electric and zero emissions bus being trialled in Leeds and we look forward to seeing it in action on our park and ride services. We know that the future is electric vehicles with no tailpipe emissions; this is the beginning of a revolution in bus travel.”

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie