A SCHEME that would charge polluting cars entering the city centre, has promoted fears that those on lower incomes, unable to buy electric cars, will be priced out of the city.

Next month, Oxfordshire County Council, backed by Oxford City Council, will be launching Britain’s first-ever Zero Emissions Zone.

Only electric vehicles, that do not burn fossil fuels, and create ‘zero emissions’ will be allowed to enter the zone for free – petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars will each be charged for entering the zone, with the price depending on how ‘polluting’ the vehicle is.

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 London’s congestion zone and the ultra-low emission zone.

The ZEZ has been proposed to help the city cut its fossil fuel emissions, become ‘greener’, and decrease the amount of air pollution in the city centre.

Not everyone is clapping their hands about the green initiative, however.

Lorenzo De Gregori, who is a Parish Councillor in Blackbird Leys, said the ZEZ will have the biggest impact on those who cannot afford the charge.

He explained: “I do not like it when the council tries to impose their views that have nothing to do with reality. They just want to remove cars.

“I am a working-class guy myself, I struggled to get a car and managed to get a second-hand car for a cheaper price.

“You can hardly find any electric vehicles second-hand, and they are not cheap, and if you did find one for a lower cost the batteries are probably not going to be as good, so you won’t be able to take them very far.”

He added that the ZEZ scheme would create a ‘massive extra cost for the people that can’t really afford it’.

Marc McArthur-Christie, who lives outside the city in Bampton, fears the new scheme will create a ‘barrier’ for those people who live outside Oxford when trying to access the city centre.

The West Oxfordshire local said: “They have a certain view of the world, which they are keen to impose and I think the challenge with all this stuff is that people don’t use their cars for fun.

“What this does it in effects puts a barrier around Oxford those people who live outside Oxford.

“And the county will argue that they are looking to minimise unnecessary car journeys, which is hard to argue with.

“But who decides what is necessary and unnecessary?”

Mr McArthur-Christie explained that he is a keen cyclist, cycling a 24-mile round-trip to and from work each day, however, when he goes shopping in Oxford, he has to take a ‘car trip’.

Active travel advocate and East Oxford local, Danny Yee, has said he is ‘generally supportive of the scheme’ but argued it is ‘limited’.

He said: "We risk just giving a very small fraction of the city’s population, and possibly the most affluent and well-off parts of it, access to the city centre, which doesn’t seem right to me.”

The start date is yet to be confirmed by the council – although it insists it will be at some point in February.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “The scheme will not ban any vehicle from entering the zone, but will encourage the use of zero emission vehicles. There are a number of discounts and exemptions available including for businesses and residents in the area, blue badge holders, healthcare workers, and for community transport vehicles.

“Before expanding the scheme in the city centre, we will consult with residents, businesses and employees in Oxford. The expansion of the ZEZ will be informed by learnings from the pilot scheme, as well as feedback received during the engagement and consultation process.

“The ZEZ expansion will not be implemented in isolation. We are also working to improve cycling, walking and bus infrastructure that will make these travel options easier and more appealing.

“As the first of its kind in the country, the ZEZ is an opportunity for Oxford to be a national leader in sustainable transport. The ZEZ will help make the city a safer, cleaner and better place for people who live and work in Oxford and for those who visit it.”