RESIDENTS and businesses have one day left to share their views on proposals for traffic restrictions designed to cut pollution in Oxford.

The city council and county council launched consultation on final draft proposals for the city’s Zero Emission Zone earlier this month and it will close tomorrow (Friday) at midnight.

Members of the public and businesses can have their say in the consultation via Oxfordshire County Council’s website.

City centre businesses were invited to ask questions and share their views on proposals at a forum held on January 22.

County councillor John Howson has called for more thought to be given to the pollution tourist coaches cause when they visit the city and is urging councillors to address this in plans for the ZEZ.

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The latest proposals consider the Red Zone of the ZEZ, which covers a small area of the city centre and will start from December for all vehicles.

Oxford Mail:

Streets in the zone include Ship Street, St Michael’s Street, New Inn Hall Street, Queen Street, Cornmarket and Bonn Square.

The informal consultation is on a draft final scheme for the Red Zone, including the proposed charging and enforcement arrangements, which could begin in December.

The Zero Emission Zone aims to reduce Oxford’s toxic air pollution levels, tackle the climate emergency, and improve the health of those living, working, and visiting in Oxford and beyond.

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Key points of the latest proposals are:

• The introduction of a charging scheme in the Red Zone between 7am to 7pm, with a £10 charge for non-compliant vehicles entering the zone

• Discounts for all blue badge holders entering the zone until at least December 2024

• Exemptions for vehicles registered to businesses in the Red Zone until December 2024, followed by a discount until December 2030

• A 90 per cent discount for residents living in the zone until December 2030.

The councils are looking for feedback on: the level the charges are set at, whether the discounts are appropriate, the suggested hours of operation for the charging scheme, what future phases of the ZEZ should include, and when they should be implemented.

Final Red Zone proposals will go out for formal consultation in March.

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Tom Hayes, the city council’s cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “When I talk to colleagues, community meetings, and knock on residents’ doors to pick up casework, the ZEZ regularly comes up in conversation.

Oxford Mail:

“People have strong, reasonable, and well-judged views, but they might not share them in a formal consultation. We’re issuing one last push for Oxonians to share their views in order to make the Zero Emission Zone both fair and effective.

“Are the daily charges for polluting vehicles too low or too high? Our two councils are proposing future phases of the ZEZ - should we introduce the Zero Emission Zone to the rest of the city centre sooner than 2021/22? Should that larger zone span a larger or smaller area? Should we seek to be a Zero Emission Oxford sooner or later than planned?

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“Finally, should people living in the Red Zone pay 10 per cent or 100 per cent of the charge for driving their polluting vehicles? These are the burning questions we need answering. Everything you tell us gets read and listened to, and really could make all the difference.”

Yvonne Constance, the county council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “Tackling air pollution and climate change is a great priority for Oxfordshire County Council.

“Not only will this project make a huge difference to the quality of life and health of people living and working in the city centre, we are 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.

"In doing so, we welcome the views of the public, residents and other stakeholders and ask them to submit their views on the proposals in our survey.”

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Mr Howson said: “There are currently two major problems. Firstly the congestion and pollution caused in St Giles by multiple coaches parking in and around the coach set down and pickup bay.

Oxford Mail:

“The notices telling coach drivers that they should only stop to drop or pick up passengers are widely ignored. The promised ‘coach warden’ seems to be invisible and is another example of poor enforcement by the councils.

“Secondly, residents in areas of North Oxford have the problem of tourist coaches parking in their streets instead of the designated coach park.

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"While parked in car spaces with the engine running to keep the driver warm in winter and cool in summer, exhaust fumes are adding to the pollution in Oxford. The Oxford ZEZ scheme does not address these problems at all.”

Oxford Mail:

Referring to the Red Zone, Graham Jones of traders’ group Rox - Backing Oxford Businesses, said: “We are not opposed to the idea of reducing pollution in the city centre but it must be done in a practical and reasonable fashion.”

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The next major stage of the ZEZ process will be to draw up final plans for a wider 'Green Zone' covering the rest of the city centre by 2022, which would be accessed for free by zero-emission vehicles and with discounted charges for residents.