Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have launched the final, formal consultation for the UK’s first city centre Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ), due to be introduced in December 2020.
The Red Zone, which covers a small part of Oxford city centre, marks the next step towards cleaner air in Oxford.
The formal consultation on the Red Zone is open to all and will run from Wednesday 4 March until midnight on Wednesday 15 April 2020.
Following feedback from the informal consultation in January, both councils have agreed a number of updates to the final proposals on the Red Zone.
Both councils are inviting comments on the final proposals, which are expected to be reported to the councils’ Cabinets in summer 2020.
“Unlike the smog from industrial chimneys and cigarette smoke, you can't see the air pollution caused by fossil fuel cars. However, we can see the evidence of its impact in the ill health of residents exposed to polluted air. Our councils are committed to cleaning up our air, protecting people's health, and addressing local causes of climate breakdown. In time, I hope, the innovative actions of local councils to clean up dirty air will become as everyday as car passengers wearing seat belts to stay safe and people smoking away from enclosed public places to protect everyone's health. The launch of this formal consultation paves the way to the introduction of Oxford's Zero Emission Zone this year."
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council
“Tackling air pollution and climate change is a great priority for Oxfordshire County Council. Not only will this project make a 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 with climate action. We can look forward to a city that will be a healthier and cleaner place for all. In doing so, it is important to understand public views on the latest proposals for the Red Zone and encourage residents to study this version and submit their feedback."
Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment, Oxfordshire County Council
The key points of the latest proposals
- The introduction of a charging scheme in the Red Zone between 7am-7pm, with an introductory £10 charge for non-compliant vehicles entering the zone, rising to £20 from August 2025
- Exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until July 2025, followed by a discount until July 2030.
- A 90% discount for residents living in the zone until July 2030.
- Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages which drive within the planned Zero Emission have already agreed timelines for zero emissions fleets across Oxford and will not be subject to charges.
Updates to the final Red Zone proposals
The formal consultation includes updates to the proposals based on feedback from approximately 900 individuals and organisations in an informal consultation which ran in January 2020.
The January consultation provided a range of views. As in previous consultations, some feel the scheme is unreasonably stretching, while others feel it is not sufficiently ambitious. However there was clear indication that introduction of the proposed Red Zone covering eight city centre streets, and introducing a charge for all non-compliant vehicles, would lead to a change in behaviour by most people. Only 14% said they would continue to drive in and pay the full charge. The remaining 86% said they would enter the zone in a compliant vehicle, enter outside of the charging hours, travel using bus, bike or walking, or they would not enter the zone at all.
The attitudes expressed in the consultation responses also highlighted a balance of views in agreement with the proposed charging levels, discounts, and hours of operation.
Based on the consultation feedback, the following updates have been proposed to the scheme
- Eight week “soft launch” phase: A soft launch of the scheme which would see the Zero Emission Zone implemented but no charges payable or penalty charges issued until 1 Feb 2021. This is in order to address concerns about the scheme starting in the run up to Christmas 2020, a key trading period for city centre businesses.
- Start date for second phase of Red Zone to be changed to summer 2025: To address concerns about the scheme starting in the run up to Christmas 2024, a key trading period for city centre businesses
- Commitment to work with ZEZ residents and businesses to develop supporting measures: To address concerns that support is required to help people comply.
- Blue badge holder discount extended to include international equivalents: This update has been made to address concerns raised about the impact on access for people with disabilities. Both councils will explore whether it is necessary and feasible to broaden this exemption to cover people with disabilities who do not hold a Blue Badge or equivalent.
- Disabled tax class vehicles exempt in all years: This has been made to address concerns raised about the availability and cost of specially adapted vehicles for people with disabilities.
- Update to discount for blue badge holders or international equivalent: The originally proposed £20 daily charge from December 2024 for blue badge has been reduced to £10 from August 2025. This will be reviewed by the end of 2024 to establish whether any charge is appropriate.
- Review zero emission standard for large vans and lorries: Both councils will review zero emission standard for large vans and lorries in light of Ultra Low Emission Truck (ULET) standard, when available. This is in order to address concerns about consistency with national guidance.
- Exemptions for certain special vehicle categories: To address concerns about availability of alternative options where mode shift or re-timing is not possible and to ensure consistency with Clean Air Zones and London ULEZ.
Phasing of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone
Following feedback from the informal consultation, the phasing for the Oxford Zero Emission Zone has been updated.
Charges, exemptions & discounts
1 December 2020 to 31 January 2021
This is a ‘soft launch’ phase, proposed in response to concerns about the December launch date originally proposed.
During this period no charges would be payable and no penalty charges would be issued. Reminders would be sent to drivers of non-compliant vehicles entering the zone during the charging hours to inform them that a charge would apply to their vehicle after 1 February 2021.
1 February 2021 to 31 July 2025
£10 daily charge for non-compliant vehicles
Transitional exemptions and discounts would apply
Permanent exemptions would apply
1 August 2025 to 31 July 2030
£20 daily charge
Reduced transitional exemptions and discounts would apply Permanent exemptions would apply
1 August 2030 onwards
£20 daily charge
Transitional exemptions and discounts no longer apply
Permanent exemptions would continue to apply
Oxford Zero Emission Zone
The Zero Emission Zone aims to reduce Oxford’s toxic air pollution levels, tackle the climate emergency, and improve the health of residents, workers and visitors in Oxford and beyond.
This follows increasing focus locally, nationally, and worldwide about the harmful impact of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions from vehicles and follows both the City Council and County Council recognising a climate emergency and making commitments to cut carbon emissions.
Transport accounts for about 75% of nitrogen dioxide pollution in Oxford, and 50 tonnes of CO2 are emitted by road traffic in Oxford every morning rush hour.
Air pollution has been found to contribute to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and with changes linked to dementia. Data published by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimated that around 36,000 premature deaths in the UK every year could be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution, with health experts warning that there is no safe level of NO2.
The Zero Emission Zone is part of a wider local transport plan which aims to improve connectivity, reduce emissions and support sustainable growth across Oxford and Oxfordshire. Last year, both councils consulted on their Connecting Oxford proposals to tackle congestion and improve public transport connections into and across Oxford. Together the two schemes aim to create zero emission transport system across Oxford and Oxfordshire.
Have your say
Information about the consultation can be viewed on the councils’ websites. Hard copies of the consultation can also be viewed at County Hall or Oxford City Council offices and a number of libraries across Oxfordshire.
The consultation closes at 23.59 on 15 April and can be completed by the means below:
Online: Oxfordshire County Council ZEZ pages.
Post:Zero Emission Zone
Oxfordshire County Council
Email: [email protected]