Zero Emission Zone pilot proposal out for final consultation

The final consultation for the proposed Oxford Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) pilot has now opened and runs until midnight on Sunday 17 January 2021.

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council are now asking for views from residents, businesses and visitors on a revised ZEZ pilot proposal after a similar consultation was paused in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

The proposed ZEZ pilot aims to reduce the city’s air pollution levels, tackle the climate emergency and improve the health of residents, workers and visitors to Oxford and beyond.

The need to cut emissions is clear. In January 2020, a study from Centre for Cities found out that at least one in 17 deaths in Oxford is related to air pollution. Oxford City Council’s draft Air Quality Action Plan sets a local target of 30 by 25 – ie 30 µg/m3 across Oxford by 2025. In April 2014, a report issued by Public Health England showed that long term exposure to air pollution in Oxford could be responsible for six per cent of all deaths of people aged 25 and over.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, added: “Tackling air pollution and climate change is a great priority for us. Not only will our plans for a city centre Zero Emission Zone make a difference to the quality of life and health of people living and working in the city centre, but we are also showing that it is possible as we start to respond seriously with climate action.

We can look forward to a city that will be a healthier and cleaner place for all, especially now that the county has moved forward on its commitment to accelerate initiatives such as these plans. The changes we propose are based on the feedback we have received and we encourage residents, businesses and visitors to submit feedback on the final plans in the consultation ahead."

Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “COVID-19 has forced local government to divert significant focus onto supporting our communities through the toughest time they’ll know. All the while, the city council has kept up our focus on climate breakdown and air pollution, including speeding up Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone.

“I’m thrilled that the implementation of the city centre ZEZ is moving forwards and the scheme’s emissions standards will be the toughest possible. The city has joined together in recent years to develop this ZEZ scheme and we hope for the largest number of responses to our final consultation.”

The ZEZ pilot would be based on a road user charging scheme, which means vehicles used in the zone 7am - 7pm would be subject to charges, depending on their emissions. Only 100 per cent zero emission vehicles could be used in the zone free of charge.

Other vehicles would be subject to the daily charges with the amount depending on the emissions of the vehicle. Discounts are also proposed for certain vehicles or road users during the charging hours (7am – 7pm) including resident and business vehicles within the zone, and for Blue Badge holders.

Under the requirement of the scheme, income raised by the ZEZ may be used to cover implementation and running costs.

The remaining income will be used to help residents and businesses make the transition to zero emission vehicles, and on other schemes that promote zero and low emission transport in the city.

The consultation follows the government’s announcement this week announcing that the sale of petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030. Britain is moving closer towards adopting electric vehicles on a wider scale. The ZEZ will go beyond this ambition, with the ZEZ pilot to be introduced in Summer 2021, and on a wider scale in spring 2022.

The councils are now proposing to create a single city centre ZEZ with a single set of requirements, in two steps. Firstly, an area in the heart of the city centre will act as the ZEZ pilot, which will then, secondly, provide learnings for a wider ZEZ to cover the whole city centre in spring 2022, on an accelerated timeline.

The larger ZEZ will be subject to further consultation but its alignment with the pilot zone would allow for clearer emissions criteria and greater support for residents and businesses within the ZEZ area.

The councils have made several changes to the ZEZ proposals after reflecting on the feedback from the January 2020 ZEZ consultation, the experience of COVID-19, the spring lockdown and the feedback from the temporary bus gates survey in the summer. These include:

  • Red Zone now explicitly a Zero Emission Zone pilot (ZEZ pilot) for the wider ZEZ, with identical requirements and discounts in both phases – This will allow both councils to develop learnings on implementing the scheme before wider roll out and will allow the wider ZEZ to be accelerated, delivering further air quality benefits more quickly.
  • Charges across both the ZEZ pilot and wider city centre ZEZ would be linked to emissions and aligned with national standards – This will help encourage the adoption of low emission and zero emission vehicles, as well as simplifying the requirements for residents and businesses in the ZEZ pilot.
  • ZEZ pilot to start Summer 2021 and wider ZEZ to be introduced in Spring 2022.
  • Blue badge holder discount extended – This will be extended to include international equivalents.
  • Review discount for Blue Badge Holders and disabled tax class vehicles by the end of 2024 - This will consider whether this discount should continue, reduce or stop from 2025 and to address concerns raised about the impact on access for people with disabilities.
  • Review zero emission standard for large vans and lorries – This will address concerns about consistency with national guidance and in light of the Ultra-Low Emission Truck (ULET) standard.
  • Discounts for certain special vehicle categories  This will address concerns about the availability of alternative options and ensure consistency with national emissions standards including Clean Air Zones and London ULEZ. The ZEZ is part of a wider local transport plan, which aims to improve connectivity, reduce emissions and support sustainable growth across Oxford and Oxfordshire. In 2019, both councils consulted on their Connecting Oxford proposals to tackle congestion and improve public transport connections into and across Oxford.

Responses to this consultation will be reported to the councils’ Cabinets in March 2021 and will inform their decisions about the scheme. 

Anyone can take part in the consultation by visiting Oxfordshire County Council’s website

Further details on the pilot proposals can be found here.

Frequently asked questions on the pilot proposals can be found here.

Notes to editors

The ZEZ pilot covers the area previously known as the ‘Red Zone’ (Bonn Square, Queen Street, Cornmarket, part of Market Street, Ship Street, St Michael’s Street, New Inn Hall Street, and Shoe Lane) and the wider ZEZ covers the previous ‘Green Zone’, which will cover the rest of the city centre.

Green Zone edit

The above outlines the wider proposed Zero Emission Zone with the pilot zone at the centre.

Other initiatives to cut transport emissions

  • Alongside the ZEZ, both councils are introducing supportive measures, to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles amongst residents and businesses both within the ZEZ pilot and across the city. The measures include:
  • Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages that drive within the planned ZEZ also have already agreed timelines for zero emissions fleets across Oxford.
  • In Oxford city centre, narrow streets, limited road network and the unique historic environment have made finding solutions to the problems of congestion and pollution a high priority.