ENVIRONMENTALISTS and experts have given a mixed response to the latest proposals on a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ).

The new plan, which sees proposals for a 2020 ban on driving in central Oxford dropped, has provoked criticism from some activists.

City Councillor Craig Simmons, who leads the Green party group, said: "The proposals are a watered-down version of those in 2017 and a lot of detail is missing.


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"Perhaps most disappointingly, the 'ZEZ' has become a low emission zone. Private cars are unlikely to be restricted at all in the wider 'green zone' before 2025 and even then - as it currently stands - cars emitting up to 75gCO2 per kilometre will be permitted. This is twice the emissions of today's typical plug-in hybrid car.

"There are some good measures, such as the move to EURO6 buses, but as always, the devil is in the detail."

Al Chisholm, from Fossil Free Oxfordshire, expressed disappointment that the council was not pushing ahead with bolder plans.

She said: "We're disappointed because the urgency of air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels and the associated climate crisis demand bold leadership and decisive action".

Greenpeace Oxfordshire's Julia Spragg also suggested the plans ought to be put in place more quickly, adding: "The councils urgently need to restrict the most polluting vehicles from our city centre. Local residents deserve to breathe clean air."

But other green activists have been more optimistic.

Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: "The need to tackle air pollution is clear and urgent. A ZEZ makes very good sense for improving health and making the city a better place to live. Let's hope this can move forward without delay.”

Oxford's Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, added: “Cities are on the frontline of our pollution crisis so it’s great to see Oxford leading the way in transitioning to cleaner cities and zero-emission vehicles.

"Government analysis says clean air zones that remove the most polluting vehicles from urban centres are one of the most cost-effective ways to tackle the problem. This leadership is an important step in the right direction. We need to see action like this, backed up with Government resources and ambition, replicated around the country.”

Oxford University Fellow and Honorary Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Dr Timothy Hinks said: “The evidence is clear: air pollution is killing people of all ages in Oxford and across the world. If you live or work in central Oxford that air is toxic.

"We need to act now and think long term. The ZEZ is exactly the kind of local, forward thinking initiative we need to see in UK.”