Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone launch postponed over coronavirus disruption

The postponement will give businesses in the city more time to develop and implement electric vehicle (EV) plans

The local authorities say the decision has been taken in recognition of the fact that businesses and households across Oxford will “need to focus all of their attention on managing the current and potential impacts on their trade and way of life”.

“During this period of uncertainty, businesses should not be expected to devote time to the detailed logistical planning required for the Oxford ZEZ,” the councils said in a statement.

The ZEZ’s first phase – a “Red Zone” in Oxford City Centre – was due to come into effect this December in a bid to reduce air pollution levels.

The second phase – a broader “Green Zone” – was then slated for introduction in late 2021 or early 2022.

Under the new plans, it is only the introduction of the “Red Zone” which has been pushed back.

When it does come into effect, the “Red Zone” will charge drivers of non-Euro-six-compliant vehicles £10 each time they enter between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week. Residents living within its boundaries will benefit from a 90% discount. This model will be trialled for two months before final remits, operating hours, fine costs and exemptions are confirmed.

Oxford City Council anticipates that the ZEZ will have a tangible impact on air pollution – and, in turn, resident and visitor health and wellbeing.

The ZEZ also forms part of the local authority’s climate emergency response plan, which is headlined by the local authority’s commitment to net-zero operations by the end of 2020 and a net-zero city-region by 2030. You can read our in-depth explainer on Oxford’s net-zero plans here.

Driving down air pollution

The first phase of the UK’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) came into effect in London last April.

Within six months, air pollution within the ULEZ had decreased by around one-third, and emissions from road transport in the City Centre by 13%.

The ULEZ currently covers most of Central London, including the City and Westminster areas, and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. It will be expanded to cover most of Greater London from October 25 2021, accounting for the entire area between the North and South Circular roads.

Once the expansion is complete, City Hall expects the ULEZ to cut London’s overall transport emissions by up to one-fifth within its first year of operation, while lifting more than 100,000 residents out of “dangerous” levels of NO2 pollution.

Aside from London and Oxford, only Bath, Birmingham, Leeds and Greater Manchester have plans to introduce ULEZs, ZEZs or other forms of Clean Air Zone.

However, more than 30 local authorities have indicated that they would be keen to develop and implement such schemes with adequate funding and practical support from central Government.  This joint call to action is being orchestrated by UK100.

Sarah George

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