A study has been launched to investigate options for introducing a Zero Emission Zone in Oxford from 2020.
A Zero Emission Zone would reduce emissions from transport by restricting access for polluting vehicles and encouraging uptake of zero emission vehicles.
The £30,000 study has been jointly commissioned by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.
The main contributor to air pollution in Oxford is transport. Air pollution has a significant impact on health and it contributes to a of range illnesses, including heart disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Oxfordshire County Council, the transport authority for Oxford, set out its ambition to introduce a Zero Emission Zone in Oxford in its 2015 Oxford Transport Strategy.
The economic cost from the impacts of air pollution in the UK is estimated at between £9 billion and £19 billion every year.
A Low Emission Zone, developed in a partnership between Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, was introduced in Oxford city centre in 2014 and requires all local bus services to be low-emitting vehicles.
In the last 10 years work to improve air quality, including the Low Emission Zone, has seen roadside levels of nitrogen dioxide in Oxford city centre fall by 35 per cent.
However, air pollution, monitored at 75 locations across Oxford, is still breaching targets set by the European Union in 32 per cent of the locations.
Oxford City Council, which is project managing the Zero Emission Zone feasibility study, and Oxfordshire County Council have appointed Ricardo Energy and Environment to carry out the study.
The study seeks to engage with stakeholders – including bus, delivery and taxi companies – and will suggest a range of options of how the Zero Emission Zone could be introduced.
It is envisaged that a zone will start small and expand as technology develops in order to facilitate zero emission travel.
The study is expected to be completed later this spring.
The aim, as set out in the 2015 Oxford Transport Strategy, is to introduce the Zero Emission Zone in phases between 2020 and 2035.
Councillor John Tanner, Oxford City Council Executive Board Member for A Clean and Green Oxford, said: “Air pollution has a significant impact on the health of residents and visitors to Oxford.
“Our vision is to create a city centre that people can live and work in without worrying about how vehicle emissions will impact on their health.
“The Zero Emission Zone will achieve this, which is why I am thrilled that this study is now taking place.”
Councillor David Nimmo-Smith, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet member for Environment, said: “There has been an improvement in air quality in the city in recent years and there is clearly a need to carry this trend on.
“The improvements clearly illustrate that measures to improve air quality, such as the introduction of the Low Emission Zone, have worked. However, there is more we all need to do to improve air quality.”