The Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council intend to deal with the “illegally-high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide” in the city, in the most direct of ways.
There is now a proposition of creating a zero emission zone in the city centre – the Oxford Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ), that would be expanded out in steps over time, making Oxford the first city in the UK to ban gasoline and diesel vehicles from its streets.
The plan is to ban conventional fuel vehicles in certain parts of the city centre in 2020, with a move to ban all non-EVs across the city will follow in 2035, five years before the Government plans to ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles nationwide.
Oxford city centre currently has illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a leading cause of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Over 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are caused by air pollution according to a 2016 report by the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Certain parts of the city centre are still highly polluted, despite NO2 levels dropping by 36.9 per cent across Oxford.
By implementing the two stages of the ZEZ, George Street, Oxford’s most polluted street, will reduce its nitrogen dioxide levels by 74 per cent in 2035, placing it below the legal limit.
The city has already won £500,000 of government funding to install charging points for electric taxis, and £800,000 to install 100 electric vehicle charging points for residents, but officials say more will be needed to support the zero-emissions zone.
Other schemes being considered to support the zone include reduced parking fees for electric vehicles, electric taxi-only ranks, and electric delivery vehicle-only loading areas.
Councillor John Tanner of Oxford city council said: “Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford’s residents. A step change is urgently needed; the Zero Emission Zone is that step change.
‘The County and City together are proposing a staged Zero Emission Zone from 2020 in the city centre, with additional measures to bring down chronic pollution in St Clement’s Street, High Street and St Aldate’s. Everyone who uses Oxford centre has the right to breathe clean air.”
A six-week public consultation will be held from the 16 October to the 26 November to gain feedback from the public concerning the zero-emissions proposal.
Tanner has urged everyone who uses the city centre to take part, adding: “We need to know what people’s needs are, so that we can plan a Zero Emission Zone that minimises impact on business and residents while maximising impact on the city’s health.”