Southampton rejects charging Clean Air Zone

Southampton rejects charging Clean Air Zone

Southampton City Council has pledged to deliver compliance with the EU limit value for nitrogen dioxide by 2020, but without the need for a charging zone.

The Freight Transport Association said the introduction of a charging zone would have damaged the local economy and its port and would have failed to deliver swift improvements in air quality for the city. 

Rebecca Kite, Environmental Policy Manager at the Freight Transport Association, said: “While the logistics sector is fully committed to reducing its environmental impact, it is of the upmost importance that any air quality scheme reflects the unique needs of each place. The proposed charging CAZ would have brought thousands of businesses and operations into its scope, causing operating costs to soar and irrevocably damaging its local economy. Most worryingly, the bustling Port of Southampton, which is UK’s second largest container terminal, would have been included in the Zone.”

The council said it has reduced nitrogen dioxide pollution over the last three years by 24% in some of the most polluted areas. 

A business case has now been put forward by the council to introduce further measures to ensure compliance is achieved even earlier than 2020 through ongoing improvements to air quality. 

Examples include shore side power and preferential charging of the port HGV booking scheme; offering opportunities for businesses to assess and trial freight consolidation, thereby removing HGV trips in the city; and an accreditation scheme for HGV operators so businesses can identify those operators that are least polluting.

Kite continued: “This is extremely positive news for local businesses and those regularly using the port. The decision recognises the importance commercial vehicles play in keeping the city’s economy thriving – delivering the goods and services businesses need to operate – and FTA is pleased these vehicles are not in line to receive heavy fines. FTA is looking forward to working with the council to develop a series of non-charging measures." 

She added: "While the logistics sector recognises the role it must play in improving air quality, it is important that all types of vehicles are taken into consideration when designing an air quality plan. The council recognised a CAZ was not the most effective way to achieve improvements in air quality; we hope other cities learn from this decision and adopt the same common-sense approach.”

RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said the news will come as a huge relief to hauliers who operate in the city.

“Southampton has made the right decision dropping a charging CAZ scheme that would have put businesses and livelihoods at risk.

“This sends out a clear message to town halls across the country that CAZ schemes are a flawed concept – they’re short-sighted and anti-business. This is a victory for common sense.”

The RHA said it is looks forward to working with the council on their new plans to promote freight consolidation and an HGV operators’ accreditation scheme.

Southampton will submit its final business case to the Government by 31 January.