Mayor’s botched Ultra Low Emission Zone plans will make London’s air dirtier not cleaner – Stephen Knight

August 5, 2013 5:28 PM

The Mayor of London's much hyped plans for an 'Ultra Low Emission Zone' in London from 2020 lie in tatters after he twice said that all vehicles, no matter how polluting, registered before 2020 will be exempt from restrictions, says Stephen Knight AM, Liberal Democrat London Assembly environment spokesperson.

This blanket exemption will provide a perverse incentive for operators to keep older, dirtier, but exempt diesel vehicles on the streets of London rather than replacing them with newer, cleaner ones that might meet the conditions of the zone.

This is a far cry from the vision he announced on 13th February when the Mayor said: "Creating the world's first big city ultra low emission zone has the potential to be a game changing moment in the quality of life of our great capital. My vision is a central zone where almost all the vehicles running during working hours are either zero or low emission. This would deliver incredible benefits in air quality and stimulate the delivery and mass use of low emission technology."

The Mayor's environment adviser Matthew Pencharz and Transport for London's Managing Director Planning Michèle Dix both gave evidence to the London Assembly Environment Committee on 11th July in which they spelt out that the plans they were developing covered all vehicles with few, if any, exemptions.

All this was turned on its head when the Mayor announced at Mayor's Question Time on 17th July, in response to a question from Stephen Knight AM, Liberal Democrat London Assembly environment spokesman, that the proposed new zone would only apply to new vehicles.

Again on 24th July, at a London Assembly plenary session, the Mayor unequivocally confirmed that "the restrictions will only apply to vehicles registered from 2020 onwards" in response to a further question from Stephen Knight AM.

Commenting on the Mayor's apparent u-turn on his original plans for an Ultra Low Emission Zone, Stephen Knight AM said:

"At the beginning of the year the Mayor was quite clear that the Ultra Low Emission Zone would cover 'almost all vehicles'. Six months later he has completely torn up those plans without apparently even telling his own environment adviser or TfL.

"His new plan - to exempt all vehicles registered before 2020 - looks so ill-conceived that it is likely to make London's air dirtier not cleaner, as there will be a perverse incentive for operators to keep older, more polluting diesel vehicles running in central London, rather than replace them with newer cleaner models that will have to comply with the zone."

"There are over 4,250 premature deaths occurring in the capital every year caused by air pollution. Londoners urgently need an effective Ultra Low Emission Zone and businesses need clarity as to how the zone will operate. The Mayor also needs to send out very clear messages to help assist the developing electric vehicle market, especially for vans, taxis and buses.

"Yet instead of sending out clear messages the Mayor appears to be totally confused as to what actions he really intends to take. The Mayor's muddled position is not only bad for businesses but is endangering the lives of thousands of Londoners who will face a totally unnecessary premature death from air pollution."