There has been a lot in the local newspapers and their online websites about the plans to create a clean air charging zone in Coventry, although one newspaper has mistakenly called it a Congestion Zone. The Coventry Socialist Party has set up an online petition against congestion charges, which at the time of writing has 6411 signatures on it.
The UK has been referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to take enough action to prevent breaches of NOx pollution limits. The UK’s Supreme Court also ordered the Government to go further in its measures to combat pollution.
In London a Congestion Zone has been in operation for several years and an Ultra Low Emission Zone was introduced in April of this year, with a £12.50 daily charge for cars entering the zone if they don’t meet strict emission standards.
In 2018 Coventry was named as one of 22 towns and cities within the UK where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels are forecast to exceed legal limits by 2020. In February of this year the City Council submitted plans to address the issue, which included putting restrictions on Holyhead Road and closing Coundon Road as well as a raft of proposals to encourage the use of low emitting vehicles, such as electric taxis and clean buses as well as new cycling and walking routes.
However DEFRA, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, rejected the Council’s plans as they would not achieve the necessary improvements soon enough. It threatened instead to impose a Clean Air Charging Zone.
The principle of a Clean Air Zone is to charge drivers for using the most polluting vehicles and thereby speed up the replacement of older vehicles with newer, less polluting, ones. Unfortunately the most polluted areas of Coventry are also the neighbourhoods where the poorest people live – the people least able to afford to replace their vehicles with newer ones.
An indicative map of a possible charging zone published in the Coventry Telegraph shows that most of Foleshill and Hillfields would be included, as well as parts of Stoke and Coundon (see map below). Charges of £8 per day for cars have been suggested for entering the zone. The charges would be a regressive form of taxation and the Council is reluctant to impose such taxation.
As the zone would also completely encompass the city centre, it would also have an adverse impact on businesses in the city and would be a big knock to the Council’s ambitious plans to regenerate the city centre. There are also 52,000 employees who work in the CAZ, along with 3,610 small businesses.
Colin Knight, the Council’s Director of Transportation and Highways tells us:
“Part of the ministerial direction required us to submit revised modelling and proposals which is what we have done. It is our belief (as it always has been) that a charging clean air zone in Coventry is totally unnecessary and would be damaging to the city’s economy. We believe our latest submission to government proves beyond reasonable doubt that a charging zone is not necessary to address the city’s air quality issues. We are awaiting an official response from government in response to our latest submission. The problem is that the date when they say they will get back to us keeps changing because of Brexit etc. So it is difficult to say any more at this stage as you will appreciate.”
We understand that the Council’s new proposals do not include the unpopular closure of Coundon Road at the level crossing.
The Coventry Society supports the aim of cleaning up the city’s air and we support the Council’s approach of seeking to achieve this without imposing a Clean Air Zone, which would be a regressive form of taxation and potentially damage the city economically.