THE 'mischievous' scheme to ban petrol and diesel cars from certain Oxford streets in less than two years must be 'kicked into touch', according to traders.

The Zero Emissions Zone proposal, put forward by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council would see petrol and diesel cars banned from the city centre by 2035.

From 2020 non-electric vehicles will banned in Queen Street, Cornmarket Street, New Inn Hall Street, Market Street, Ship Street and St Michael’s Street.

Traders' group ROX said more time was needed for technology to evolve and businesses and people to replace their vehicles.

Graham Jones, from the group, said: “The advances in vehicle technology to help bring about a cleaner environment are bounding along at quite a pace.

“However, the nonsensical plan to pick on six central streets in Oxford to become “zero emissions” in 2020 needs to be well and truly kicked into touch.

“We feel it is almost mischievous to suggest that a scheme can be introduced in just two years’ time.

Instead the group proposed ‘serious dialogue’ on how to reduce pollution over the next years and delaying the ZEZ until the appropriate technology was in place.

In November the Oxford Mail revealed that, despite being at the forefront of the ZEZ proposals, Oxfordshire County Council does not own a single electric vehicle.

Of its 366 vehicles as of the start of October, 365 were diesel-powered and just one - part of its trading standards fleet - was hybrid-powered.

Oxford City Council has 17 electric and 22 hybrid-powered vehicles among its fleet of 322.

Mr Jones said both councils would have ‘major problems’ themselves in replenishing their stock.

He said: “No consideration seems to be given to the fact that, whether organisations or individuals, not all will be able to replace their vehicles so quickly.

“Even the two councils trying to bring this in will have major problems financing new fleets of zero emission vehicles over the next five years.”

The city council's cabinet member for a Clean and Green Oxford, John Tanner, said: "It is not acceptable for levels of pollution to be above the legal and safe level in some streets in the centre of Oxford - everyone has the right to breathe clean air.

"I would like to hear from ROX about what their plans are to cut pollution in the city centre.

He added: "Most traders will have until 2025 to adapt. But in the very heart of the city around Cornmarket and in St Clements Street we need urgent action by 2020 at the latest."

Jo Colwell, Oxford City Council Environmental Sustainability Manager, said: “Some streets in Oxford city centre have toxic and illegal levels of air pollution, which has a direct impact on health of everyone who lives, works and visits the city, and we have now been directed by Government to reduce Oxford’s air pollution as quickly as possible.

“The zero emission zone is a proposal to tackle this public health emergency.

"It will cover a small number of roads and vehicle types at first, and will then be rolled out as vehicle technology improves.

"We started the conversation three years ahead of this proposed roll-out precisely because fleet operators, including the City Council, and others affected have to plan ahead.

“We have been working closely with those affected, and have already secured £3.25m of Government funding to buy electric vehicles and charging points for Covered Market traders, introduce electric and ultra-low emission buses, and install electric vehicle charging points for taxi drivers and operators, and for residents.

Oxfordshire County Council said it was still listening to views and another round of consultation would take place later this year.