We were one of the first five local authorities in the UK required by central government to see if a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) was needed to meet certain air quality standards in the shortest possible time. A charging zone would involve owners of certain vehicles needing to pay if they used them in the city.
To see if a charging CAZ was necessary, we undertook a study to see how future levels of pollutants might change under different types of CAZs as well as a ‘do minimum’ scenario. It was concluded that, even in a ‘do minimum’ scenario, air quality objectives could be met by 2020.
The Local NO2 Plan
We submitted our full business case to central government which set out that a charging CAZ would not be necessary, instead, a series of non-charging measures, known as ‘The Local NO2 Plan’ would be implemented to ensure that standards are met in the shortest possible time, without the limitations that a charging scheme can bring.
Central government approved our business case to implement The Local NO2 Plan instead of a charging CAZ in February 2019 and we have been carrying out the measures included since. These measures include:
- Upgrading 145 Southampton licensed buses with emission reduction technology so that they meet the cleanest diesel emission standard
- Requiring city buses to meet at least the cleanest standard of diesel
- Requiring newly licensed taxis to meet at least the cleanest standard of diesel
- Running The Low Emission Taxi Incentive scheme which offers up to £3,000 off-licensing costs for drivers who switch from an older, more polluting vehicle to a low emission alternative. Now over 40% of the taxi and private hire fleet are low emission vehicles
- Installing two taxi-only rapid chargers to support a shift to zero emission vehicles
- Operating a Sustainable Distribution Centre which lowers the number of lorries which might visit a business but ‘consolidating’ partly empty lorries into fewer, fuller vehicles
- Working with businesses to establish ‘Delivery and Service Plans’. These reduce emissions associated with a business by using last mile delivery techniques and cleaner technology including electric vans and cargo bikes
Updates to The Plan
We have amended two of our measures included in the plan as a result of feedback from consultation and discussion with central government. Two ‘change requests’ - one regarding ‘bus lane authorisation for Southampton taxis’ and one regarding ‘bus standard conditions’ - were submitted to the government, setting out why the previous measure was inappropriate to implement and why the alternative is preferred. The alternative presented in the requests were approved through a ‘ministerial decision’ letter. These now form a part of The Local NO2 Plan.