Diesel van drivers could be charged to enter five city centres from 2020, under new plans outlined by the Government to improve air quality across the country.
The plans will see Clean Air Zones introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton. Drivers of buses, taxis, coaches and lorries will be discouraged from entering the zones through the introduction of the charges.
However, a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman has clarified that the Birmingham and Leeds charges will also affect vans.
“We’re currently looking into the zones, but we are in the early stages” she told What Van?, adding that other cities may follow in Birmingham and Leeds’ footsteps.
The two cities are also considering other measures, including park and ride schemes, changes to road layouts and provision of infrastructure for alternative fuels, in an attempt to improve local air quality.
However, cars will not be charged, and DEFRA has said that local authorities will only be able to set charges at levels intended to reduce pollution and not raise revenue.
DEFRA has claimed that between 2005 and 2013 emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 38% across the country and particulate matter has been reduced by 16%, which the Government attributed to increased usage of electric vehicles.
The zones are being brought in after ministers were ordered by the Supreme Court to produce plans to comply with European Union NOx emissions law in April 2015.
These zones will be targeted at areas where pollution is at its worst, and follow similar schemes in Germany and Denmark, which the Government claims have led to a reduction in pollution.
The Government has set aside funding for scoping studies into the zones, while the local councils will consult residents and businesses on the details of the areas.
“Our Clean Air Zones are targeted on the largest vehicles, whilst not affecting car owners and minimising the impact on business,” said environment secretary Elizabeth Truss.
“We want to ensure people can continue to drive into city centres and by targeting action at the most polluting coaches, taxis, buses and lorries we will encourage the use of cleaner vehicles,” she added.