IS the planned zero-emission zone for Oxford City Centre appropriately named?

That was the question asked by some members of Oxford City Council's scrutiny committee as they considered draft plans for the ZEZ, including the first part of the scheme set to be rolled out in December, the red zone.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council's cabinet member for zero carbon Oxford answered questions from the committee about the details of the zone, which aims to reduce air pollution from fossil fuel powered vehicles in the heart of the city.

At the meeting, Mr Hayes told the committee the plans were 'ambitious', a result of work between the Tory-run county council and the Labour-run city council, and considered a leading scheme across the whole of the UK.

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But Craig Simmons, Green party councillor, took issue with the name of the ZEZ.

Mr Simmons said: "This is very welcome and anything which brings about restrictions which improve air quality is good."

But he added he thought it was not truly a zero-emission zone because fossil fuel powered cars would still be allowed to enter if they paid the £10 daily charge, and could still pollute the area.

Mr Simmons said: "[Air quality] will improve as a result of this but most other authorities call it an ultra-low emission zone."

But cabinet member Tom Hayes argued that the restrictions imposed in the city council scheme went far beyond the government guidelines on how an ultra-low emission zone was defined.

Oxford Mail:

Tom Hayes. Picture: Ed Nix.

He emphasised only vehicles which did not emit polluting fumes would be able to enter without paying.

He said: "I understand the point you are making but I disagree. It is going to have a material impact on people's health and I think we should be glad of that."

Also of concern to the committee was how the fee system in the zone will be monitored.

A leaflet explaining how cars entering the zone would be charged said auto number plate recognition cameras would be used.

At the meeting Mr Hayes explained these cameras would not be fixed at entrances to the red zone, instead they would be mobile cameras held by two or three Oxfordshire County Council traffic wardens, who would patrol the area.

Lib Dem councillor and committee chair Andrew Gant raised concerns about how effective this would be.

Following the roll-out of the red zone, which will test the scheme, the council wants a wider area of the city centre called the green zone to become a zero-emission zone in 2021 or 2022.

There are also plans to reduce emissions from taxis through the licencing scheme the council monitors, which would see them all become electric cars by 2025.

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All of Oxford's buses are set to move towards becoming electric by 2030.

Buses and locally registered taxis would be exempt from the charges.

There are plans for a city-wide zero-emissions zone by 2035.

The red zone covers a small group of streets in the middle of the city, including Cornmarket Street, Queen Street and Bonn Square.

Charges to enter the zone would be begin at £10 for all vehicles and is up for review to rise to £20 in 2024.

The scrutiny committee recommended these charges be considered carefully for blue badge holders in 2024, as well as recommending the name of the zone and method of enforcing the charges are discussed in more detail.

Members of the public are currently being invited to give their opinions on plans for the ZEZ as part of a consultation, which is open until the end of January.

This article has been updated: a previous version said all taxis were required to be electric cars by 2024. The correct date is 2025.