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Is this coming to your town? Eco mad councils wage war on Britain’s drivers with Oxford now set to expand its zero emission zone and DOUBLE fines for motorists – and they’re not alone


Oxford is set to rapidly expand its zero emission zone and double fines for motorists – a move which businesses say will ‘cripple’ the city.

Under the new plans, the ZEZ, which currently covers just a handful of streets, would be increased to include the wider city centre.

The standard charges for petrol cars would also be hiked from £4 to £8 with non-compliant trucks or buses hit with a whopping £50 fee to drive in the zone.

Although the ZEZ in Oxford is the first of its kind in the UK, the proposed restrictions come as councils in other cities including London, Birmingham and Bristol have waged war on motorists.

While it was revealed last year that 387 of the 420 vehicles run by the Oxford County Council are diesel-powered and therefore would not be compliant with the new restrictions.

Just one of the council’s vehicles runs off petrol, none are hybrid and only 32 are electric.

The green area of the map shows the proposed boundary of the expanded zero emission zone. The red area shows the streets in the ZEZ pilot and are currently subject to restrictions

The green area of the map shows the proposed boundary of the expanded zero emission zone. The red area shows the streets in the ZEZ pilot and are currently subject to restrictions

If approved in the spring, Oxford's zero emission zone will be enforced from this point near Magdalen Bridge

If approved in the spring, Oxford’s zero emission zone will be enforced from this point near Magdalen Bridge 

The revelation was seen to be particularly at odds with the council’s aims as Oxfordshire was previously branded Britain’s ‘wokest’ county by critics, after the introduction of a series of controversial new eco-policies.

Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) – where bollards prevent cars from taking shortcuts down residential streets – were introduced in 2021 despite heavy opposition from residents.

Clinton Pugh, the father of British actress Florence Pugh and a local restaurant owner, whose businesses have already been hit hard by the LTNs, told MailOnline that the new ZEZ restrictions would only cause more misery.

‘It will take it to another level for me,’ the 65-year-old said.

‘It’s difficult to know whether I will still be in business.

‘The LTNs have been a complete disaster but they [Oxfordshire County Council] still haven’t tried to do anything to ease the problem.

‘They are deliberately destroying the economic hub of the Cowley Road area of the city.

‘There are 250 businesses here – most of them with English as a second language – I think they saw us as an easy target.’

Local restaurant owner, Clinton Pugh, whose businesses have already been hit hard by the LTNs, told MailOnline that the new ZEZ restrictions would only cause more misery

Local restaurant owner, Clinton Pugh, whose businesses have already been hit hard by the LTNs, told MailOnline that the new ZEZ restrictions would only cause more misery

Florence Pugh with her father Clinton at 'A Good Person' filming in New York in March 2023

Florence Pugh with her father Clinton at ‘A Good Person’ filming in New York in March 2023

Clinton Pugh outside his tapas restaurant Kazbar on Cowley Road in Oxford

Clinton Pugh outside his tapas restaurant Kazbar on Cowley Road in Oxford 

Mr Pugh owns two restaurants in Oxford, including Café CoCo on Cowley Road, where Hollywood star Florence used to serve customers growing up.

The area has lost 195 car parking spaces in recent months to make way for cycle lanes.

He added: ‘The plans won’t work – it will just push traffic out onto the ring road around the city.

‘The A34 is already blocked so anyone trying to pass Oxford on their way to Bicester or the M40 will get caught up in this mess.

‘Everyone is wasting hours of their life and we are never going to get these hours back.’

Oxfordshire County Council introduced the pilot ZEZ in February 2022 with charges in place from 7am until 7pm.

Consultation for the next stage of the plans – which is expected to cost £5.8million – has been ongoing with local communities, businesses, and the public ahead of a decision in the spring.

But Oxford hotelier Jeremy Mogford said businesses feel they are being ignored.

One of his hotels, Old Bank Hotel, would sit inside the new zero emission zone if the plans are implemented in 2025.

He raised concerns that his guests may be hit with charges if their cars are not compliant.

Mr Mogford told MailOnline: ‘The ZEZ is one of about six things that are strangling Oxford businesses.

One of Jeremy Mogford's hotels, Old Bank Hotel, would sit inside the new zero emission zone if the plans are approved then implemented in 2025

One of Jeremy Mogford’s hotels, Old Bank Hotel, would sit inside the new zero emission zone if the plans are approved then implemented in 2025

Oxfordshire County Council introduced the pilot ZEZ, which is the first one in the country, in February 2022 with charges in place from 7am until 7pm

Oxfordshire County Council introduced the pilot ZEZ, which is the first one in the country, in February 2022 with charges in place from 7am until 7pm

If successful, the ZEZ will be extended to cover Oxford's entire city centre and charges could increase to between by 2025

If successful, the ZEZ will be extended to cover Oxford’s entire city centre and charges could increase to between by 2025

‘The measures were initially imposed on such a small part of the city that it was impossible to know what the true affect would be.

‘I think this is another nail in the coffin for Oxford’s economic and cultural vibrancy. Business and culture have been ignored.’

Matthew Alden, owner of local butchers Aldens Meatmaster, has bought six new electric vans to avoid the new ZEZ charges and invest in his business.

His company carries out deliveries across the city, including to many of the university colleges.

Mr Alden said: ‘In terms of the expansion of the Oxford ZEZ, we are quite well prepared – there won’t be any additional charges for us.

‘We will only use our new electric vehicles in the ZEZ zone.

‘This is really good because with the charges going up in 2025, we’d be looking at around £10,000 extra a year – that is a considerable cost.

‘The vans have been a big investment in the business but that is what we are always looking to do.’

Matthew Alden, owner of local butchers Aldens Meatmaster, has bought six new electric vans to avoid the new ZEZ charges and invest in his business

Matthew Alden, owner of local butchers Aldens Meatmaster, has bought six new electric vans to avoid the new ZEZ charges and invest in his business

Aldens Meatmaster carries out deliveries across Oxford, including to many of the university colleges

Aldens Meatmaster carries out deliveries across Oxford, including to many of the university colleges

Conservative Liam Walker, who sits on Oxfordshire County Council, added: ‘The coalition at the council are preparing to enter their next anti-motorist agenda phase as they look to expand the ZEZ, install new bus gates, and implement a new workplace charging levy.

‘These schemes will hit businesses and residents hard with extra costs all to help fund more motorist hammering measures.

‘This has got to stop, and we are proposing in our opposition budget amendment a pause on these schemes and for a traffic commission report to be conducted to help identify what scheme would actually help reduce congestion in Oxford.’

MailOnline contacted Oxfordshire County Council for comment.  

Councillor Judy Roberts, cabinet member for development strategy, said: ‘The zero-emission zone in Oxford is all about making our city cleaner and healthier.

‘The county council is currently working on proposals for expanding the zero emission zone to a larger area in the city centre.

‘The proposals are draft at this stage and will be informed by our conversations with businesses and residents especially, as well as traffic and air quality modelling and a business impact assessment.

‘Following a public consultation, the county council’s cabinet will make a public decision on whether to expand the ZEZ.’ 

Drivers of petrol cars meeting at least Euro 4 standards and the latest Euro 6 diesels currently need to pay £4 per day, which will rise to £8 from 2025 if the scheme is enforced after the trial.

Owners of petrol and diesel cars that are too old to meet these emission standards have to fork out £10 daily - rising to £20 a day from August 2025

Owners of petrol and diesel cars that are too old to meet these emission standards have to fork out £10 daily – rising to £20 a day from August 2025

ZEZ charges for driving anything but a zero-emission electric vehicle can be paid up to six days in advance, on the day it is driven in the zone, and up to six days after

ZEZ charges for driving anything but a zero-emission electric vehicle can be paid up to six days in advance, on the day it is driven in the zone, and up to six days after

Residents and businesses operating from inside the zone can also apply for a 90% discount while there is a 50% discount for private hire vehicle drivers

Residents and businesses operating from inside the zone can also apply for a 90% discount while there is a 50% discount for private hire vehicle drivers 

Owners of petrol and diesel cars that are too old to meet these emission standards have to fork out £10 daily – rising to £20 a day from August 2025.

Non-payment of the charge will result in penalty charge notices (PCNs) of £60. However, the fine will be halved to £30 if paid within 14 days of the notice being issued.

If a driver fails to pay or challenge the fine within 28 days, they’ll be issued with a late penalty. 

After that, the fine will increase by 50 per cent to £90 and drivers will have 14 days to pay before the debt is registered with the Traffic Enforcement Centre at Northampton County Court.

But unlike London’s ULEZ, the charging zone isn’t operational 24 hours a day.

It is only enforced between the hours of 7am and 7pm, and there are discounts and exemptions available to some motorists, including health and care workers, Blue Badge holders and students with financial hardship.

Residents and businesses operating from inside the zone can also apply for a 90 per cent discount while there is a 50 per cent discount for private hire vehicle drivers.

London

In London, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was expanded in August 2023 to cover almost all areas within the M25. 

There is a £12.50 daily charge if a diesel car isn’t Euro 6 or petrol isn’t at least Euro 4.

The restrictions are enforced by ANPR cameras 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, except on Christmas Day. 

London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) was expanded by Sadiq Khan in August last year

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) was expanded by Sadiq Khan in August last year

There is also a seperate Congestion Charge that operates from 7am until 6pm Monday to Friday and 12pm until 6pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. 

The charge is £15 and if cars do not meet the ULEZ requirements then motorists must also pay this fee on top. 

This takes the current total for entering central London to £24 if you don’t have a compliant motor.

 Birmingham 

The low emission zone in Birmingham became operational in 2021 and covers all roads within the Middleway Ring Road. 

Drivers who fail to pay the fee are hit with fines of £120, cut to £60 if paid within 14 days

Drivers who fail to pay the fee are hit with fines of £120, cut to £60 if paid within 14 days

It affects pre-Euro 4 petrol and pre-Euro 6 diesel cars with motorists who do not have compliant vehicles having to pay £8 to enter the zone. 

But the scheme was thrown into chaos in March 2023 after it emerged that nearly 70,000 fines had been written off by the city council after they were successfully challenged by drivers. 

Birmingham City Council said at the time: ‘In the 18-month period, since the start of the enforcement of the Clean Air Zone in 2021, there have been 69,114 penalty charge notices written off so far which is around 6 per cent of the total issued.

The low emission zone in Birmingham became operational in 2021 and covers all roads within the Middleway Ring Road

The low emission zone in Birmingham became operational in 2021 and covers all roads within the Middleway Ring Road

‘This represents a combination of cases that have been challenged/appealed and the reasons of mitigation accepted/discretion exercised, as per the council’s discretion policy, and cases where the council has been unable to collect payment or trace the registered keeper.’

Drivers who fail to pay the fee are hit with fines of £120, cut to £60 if paid within 14 days.

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: ‘The purpose of the Clean Air Zone is to improve air quality in the city centre. 

‘Since its introduction it has helped reduce the number of the most polluting vehicles that enter the zone every day. This is helping to improve air quality.’

 Bristol

A clean air zone (CAZ) was launched in Bristol in November 2022 by the city council to reduce air pollution – which is now down by 10 per cent across the entire city.

The scheme made £26million in its first year but the city’s Mayor has insisted that the scheme was never about making money. 

Motorists driving vehicles which do not meet the CAZ emission standards are given a fine which is set at £9 for most private vehicles – of which £2 is paid to Westminster.

In the first 12 months, 570,013 penalty charges were issued for breaches. But fewer than half – 285,645 – of the fines have actually been paid.

Of the remainder, 33,145 were cancelled and 91,125 written off because the vehicle’s owner had not been traced. Some 160,098 were unresolved. 

In the foreword of the CAZ Cabinet report detailing its first year in operation, Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said: ‘The air that we all breathe is cleaner than it was in November 2022.

The CAZ was launched in November 2022 by Bristol City Council to reduce air pollution

The CAZ was launched in November 2022 by Bristol City Council to reduce air pollution

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said: 'The CAZ was never about making money for the council: it was about clean air.'

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said: ‘The CAZ was never about making money for the council: it was about clean air.’

‘Nitrogen dioxide pollution is down by 10 per cent across Bristol and is almost 13 per cent lower inside the Clean Air Zone (CAZ). Outside the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Children’s Hospital, nitrogen dioxide is down by around 20 per cent.’

The biggest difference was seen on Park Row, the report noted, which saw a nitrogen dioxide decrease of 27.5 per cent. 

Bedminster Down Road and Upper Maudlin Street near the Infirmary both had reported decreases of 27 per cent and Hotwell Road was down by 26.5 per cent.

Mr Rees added: ‘While some people have called for a charging Clean Air Zone to cover the whole city, like the majority of fellow Bristolians, I remain convinced that is a road best not taken.

‘The CAZ was never about making money for the council: it was about clean air. If our progress cleaning up our air continues, then, in the not-too-distant future, the CAZ should come to an end.



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