Government delays introduction of all Clean Air Zones until January 2021 'at the earliest'
Introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) has been postponed to January 2021 at the earliest, the government has announced.
Separately Birmingham City Council and Leeds City Council had written to the government asking for the CAZ in each of those cities - due to be introduced in 2020 - to be delayed. Two weeks ago Oxford announced it is delaying its CAZ start date to summer 2021.
Currently, due to very low traffic levels during the COVID-19 crisis, pollution is at a record low, but that is expected to return to previous levels once the 'lockdown' is lifted.
In letter from Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Rebecca Pow to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) Ms Pow says the government still intends to deliver on its obligation to “deliver compliance with air quality limits in the shortest possible time.”
The FTA has been urging that Clean Air Zones are postponed to allow businesses to focus on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
To provide certainty to those affected by CAZs, she says “we will work with local authorities to delay introducing CAZs until after the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak response. We will keep the timetable under review, but we expect the introduction of CAZs to be no earlier than January 2021.”
Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy at FTA says: “As the business organisation representing the logistics sector, FTA has been urging government to delay the introduction of CAZs urgently to allow businesses to focus their efforts on keeping goods moving throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.
“While the FTA and its members support fully the government’s ambition to improve air quality across the UK, to achieve compliance with the schemes businesses would have to undertake significant work and planning.
"With the industry focusing all its attention on ensuring the public, supermarkets and other retailers continue to receive the essential items they need during the pandemic, logistics businesses simply do not have the resources to dedicate to preparing for the imminent introduction of CAZs.
"In addition, supplies of technology, equipment and trucks are being disrupted by the pandemic, making it harder for businesses to upgrade their fleets to meet the emission standards required of the schemes.
“Once the immediacy of the coronavirus crisis comes to an end, FTA will continue to work with Defra and cities including Birmingham and Leeds, whose zones were due to come into force this year, to ensure the detail of the schemes take into account the needs of businesses whilst delivering improvements to air quality.”
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) welcomed the news, with Policy Manager Alison Edwards describing the move as “pragmatic”, saying: “Coronavirus COVID-19 has meant that many operators are unable to continue with retrofitting or plans to upgrade their existing fleets to meet CAZ requirements.
“Continuing with the rollout of CAZs would have resulted in significant extra costs for an industry that is already being hit hard with cancellations and falling passenger numbers.”