BUSINESSES have raised concerns regarding how they will manage deliveries when Britain’s first Zero Emission Zone launches next month.

Polluting cars could be fined for driving in the city centre, with electric vehicles which do not burn fossil fuels and create emissions the only ones able to enter the zone for free.

The pilot scheme – which will cover Cornmarket Street, Queen Street, Bonn Square, New Inn Hall Street, St Michael’s Street and Ship Street – will work in a similar way to the London congestion charge and ultra-low emission zone.

Signs will be placed around the zone, with those driving or parking and using a non-compliant vehicle during the charging hours required to pay before entering the zone or by midnight on the working day after entering the zone.

Oxford Mail: Ship Street in OxfordShip Street in Oxford

The zone would be enforced by cameras, using automatic number plate recognition technology.

Matthew Wellington, owner of board games cafe Geek Retreat in New Inn Hall Street, said the Zero Emission Zone could see an increase in demand for car parking in the city.

“We’re in the fairly fortunate position that deliveries are done by electric vehicles, so we won’t be affected,” he said.

“It’s a good idea to make the air cleaner but I think it’ll push the poor air elsewhere, and put more pressure on the park and rides.

“There’s the university grounds in the area, which will need maintenance, so I’m not sure how that will work too.

“We have a car park at the back of the shop for staff but we might have to start paying to park in the city centre, which is expensive and the cark parks are full enough as it is.”

Oxford Mail: Staff at Geek Retreat, which opened in Oxford last year. Picture: Ed NixStaff at Geek Retreat, which opened in Oxford last year. Picture: Ed Nix

Unlike Geek Retreat, the Art Cafe in Bonn Square relies on non-electric vehicles for deliveries, which could mean additional charges.

Andrea Baiu, manager at the Art Cafe, said: “I think it will be very difficult for deliveries and I don’t know how rubbish collection will work.

“Our deliveries come from HGVs, lorries and vans – and none of these are electric.

“It’s going to be very disruptive, we don’t know how we’ll get deliveries – it’s something we need to talk about with suppliers.”

Although deliveries could be tricky for The Plough at 38 in Cornmarket, pub manager Max Berlingieri said he looks forward to a cleaner city centre.

He said: “Overall it’s positive as we can have the tables outside, however our deliveries come from trucks.

“I need to talk to suppliers to work out how deliveries will work.

“As a citizen, I’m very happy the city centre will be like this and hopefully it can be like what Broad Street was in the summer, as that attracted a lot of people to the city.”

Oxford Mail: The Plough at 38 in CornmarketThe Plough at 38 in Cornmarket

The city council’s deputy leader Tom Hayes – who is also the cabinet member for green transport and zero carbon Oxford – said business can seek exemptions and discounts.

“These are familiar concerns we’ve heard over the last four years, we’ve had consultations where we’ve deliberately sought the views of those in the area and further afield,” he told the Oxford Mail.

“Businesses can receive exemptions and discounts. We want there to be more electric bikes and deliveries that way.”

Mr Hayes highlighted how the Covered Market is using two electric cargo bikes to transport goods, which would be allowed in the Zero Emission Zone.

“We delayed the implementation of the pilot during the pandemic to support businesses,” Mr Hayes added.

“The Zero Emission Zone is part of our stall to decarbonise but also to meet our air quality standards.

“It’s a pilot and we want to learn from it – we want people to feel they can influence policy and we’ll continue listening to people.”

The pilot launching next month will be used to gain information ahead of a larger zone covering most of Oxford city centre, subject to further public consultation.