The implementation of clean air zones (CAZs) across England is being delayed until “after January 2021”, according to the government’s environment department — with schemes set to come into force this year in Birmingham, Leeds and Bath, and a zero emission zone in Oxford, all now postponed until next year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Oxford scheme is now set to launch in the summer of 2021, while the Birmingham, Leeds and Bath zones are now listed as beginning in “early 2021” on the website of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
The news follows the suspension of the low emission and ultra low emission zones in London, to aid the transport of critical workers and deliveries in the capital.
The Guardian newspaper quoted a spokesperson for the government as saying that the delay to CAZs would assist local authorities in focusing on their coronavirus response. A call for evidence to help the government understand the impact the outbreak was having on changes in air pollution had also been launched, she said.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the delay was “insufficient” and that the government should conduct a review into CAZ policy “as a matter of extreme urgency”.
“The review should take account of the financial pressures hauliers are facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the haulage contribution to reducing poor air quality prior to the pandemic, the change in traffic patterns anticipated as a result of Covid-19, and that timescales do not allow for Euro 6 upgrades to take place in time for 2021,” said the association.
Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at FTA, welcomed councils’ requests for local schemes to be suspended late last month.
“Delaying the introduction of these schemes will allow businesses operating within the logistics sector to focus their efforts on ensuring the public, supermarkets and other retailers all receive the essential items needed during this pandemic,” she said.
“With logistics businesses facing unprecedented demand for food, hygiene products, medicines and other basic items, the right framework must be in place to support these workers through these extraordinary times and to keep the supply chain intact.”
She continued; “FTA fully and wholeheartedly supports the need to improve air quality. It is simply that these schemes pose a major change, and currently our industry cannot undertake the work and planning it needs to do in order to achieve smooth compliance or be certain it has the funds to make these changes.
“As well as the administrative difficulties logistics is experiencing, supplies of technology, equipment and trucks are already being disrupted and more effects are expected. This will further hinder efforts to comply with these schemes and service our cities efficiently.”