Councils 'should have powers to charge worst polluting vehicles'


The worst-polluting vehicles should be charged when they enter towns and cities across England in a bid to improve air quality, MPs have urged.

At the moment London and five other cities will be able to introduce restrictions and fees for certain vehicles, after the
Environment Department (Defra) published a long-awaited air quality plan focusing on bringing in clean air zones by 2020.

The Commons' Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee wants the plan to be extended so that all local authorities can tackle pollution in this way.

Traffic jam in London (PA)

Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton will introduce clean air zones by 2020. They will use charging to discourage the most polluting vehicles, including old diesel buses, taxis, coaches and lorries, from entering the city centres.

London is also set to bring in an ultra low emissions zone in 2020, which will apply to all vehicles.

London's polluted skyline (Nick Ansell/PA)

A Defra spokesman insisted that air quality is a priority for the Government saying: "Cities already have powers to introduce clean air zones and other air quality schemes."

Ministers were ordered by the Supreme Court last year to produce plans to comply with European Union law on limits for nitrogen dioxide in the air.

The ruling was the culmination of a five-year legal battle by ClientEarth over the UK's "admitted and continuing" failure to comply in certain zones with limits set "for the protection of human health".

Alan Andrews, a lawyer at the environmental law firm, welcomed  Efra's report, but the Local Government Association said more was needed - including "a range of powers and devolved funding" - to combat the issue.

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions is written on a Volkswagen Passat Diesel (Michael Probst/PA)

Efra urged the Government to ensure that marketing claims made by vehicle manufacturers are "fully accurate", following the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

It also called for ministers to develop a scrappage scheme so the owners of diesel cars that are around 10 or more years old can get a discount on buying an ultra-low emission vehicle.

Some 40-50,000 early deaths are caused each year from cardiac, respiratory and other diseases linked to air pollution, Efra said in its report.