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‘Red Zone’ could be brought in by end of year in bid to tackle climate emergency

Oxford City Council is consulting on the implementation of what it says will be the UK’s first Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ), with the local authority one of the latest cities in the UK to announce plans to tackle the climate emergency.

The proposals, drawn up in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, which is the relevant highways authority for the city, would see the introduction of a ‘Red Zone’ covering a large part of the city centre by the end of this year.

The council has summarised the key features of the scheme as follows:

The introduction of a charging scheme in the Red Zone between 7am-7pm, with a £10 charge for non-compliant vehicles entering the zone.

Discounts for all blue badge holders entering the zone until December 2024.

Exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until December 2024, followed by a discount until December 2030.

A 90% discount for residents living in the zone until December 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.  

An informal consultation on the plans is currently open and runs until 31 January, and the council adds that it also plans for a Green Zone covering the rest of the city centre to be introduced in 2021/22, subject to a separate consultation nearer the time.

Councillor Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council, said: “2020 will be a crunch year for our climate and all our futures. We face a climate emergency that threatens all of our futures.

“For the sake of everyone in Oxford, and especially our children’s lungs, we must clean up the lethal air we’re all breathing. Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone will come into force this year and help make 2020 the year we make a game-changing difference.

“With our strengthened Zero Emission Zone and the introduction of hundreds of supporting charging points, our medieval city is leading the electric vehicle revolution.

Our two councils have taken a fresh look at the big idea of charging commuters to drive polluting vehicles in and out of the city centre, he added, “And we’re listening to Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change by speeding up our journey to a city-wide Zero Emission Zone.

“Local government isn’t prepared to delay action. Our two councils are working together to enhance lives here in Oxford and across the market towns and villages of Oxfordshire.”

Earlier this month we reported how active travel campaigners in Oxford had criticised a survey posted online by the city council which sought people’s views on issues they wanted to see tackled in the city centre, with “cyclists riding irresponsibly” the only transport-related issue highlighted.

> ‘Cyclists riding irresponsibly’ the only transport-related problem in Oxford city centre according to council survey

The Public Attitude Survey on the City Centre consultation was launched last November and closed on Sunday 12 January.

In recent weeks, city councils in York and Birmingham have both announced radical measures aimed at curbing private car use.

In York, the council proposes banning private motorists from the central zone bounded by the city’s medieval walls.

> Ban on cars could treble levels of cycling in York, say campaigners

Meanwhile, as we reported on Monday, Birmingham plans to split the centre of the West Midlands city into a number of ‘cells’ with motorists unable to move between them within the central zone.

 > Birmingham heralds end to “golden age of cars” by banning trips by private motorists across city centre

Instead, they would have to drive out to the ring road and then access the zone where their destination lies from there.

As with the York plan, the scheme is intended to encourage walking, cycling and use of public transport, while tackling air pollution and improving the quality of life for residents.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.