The county council has been accused of "hypocrisy" over its Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) expansion plans after the scheme's cost was revealed.

The proposed project in Oxford would come at a price of around £5.8million with a final decision expected in the spring.

A small pilot area has been in place for nine streets in the city since February 2022 but the final rollout will involve most of the city centre.

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Not everyone is a fan of the plans to charge non-electric vehicles with a mind to "improving air quality, cutting carbon emissions, and moving towards zero emission travel in the city".

Independent Cowley ward councillor, Sajjad Malik, said: "You can have a big van that smokes like hell and still pay the council to drive it.

"This has been rebranded into a zero emission zone but in reality it is a congestion charge.

"People have already been turned away from Oxford and now there will be more empty shops in the city centre.

"It will be even more detrimental to businesses."

Mr Malik described the scheme's ethos as being "as long as you can pay us you can drive any vehicle".

Oxford Mail: Saj Malik.Saj Malik. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

He also claimed there had been some hypocritical action due to the city not having buses that would be fully compliant.

Mr Malik said: "The council plans for its buses to be fully electric by 2030.

"You can only preach what you practice."

The current ZEZ scheme is being delivered by Oxfordshire County Council though Oxford City Council previously oversaw the scheme on the nine city roads.

City bus fleets are owned by private companies but the county council deals with the contracts.

Councillor Judy Roberts, cabinet member for development strategy at Oxfordshire County Council said: “The zero emission zone in Oxford is all about making our city cleaner and healthier.

Oxford Mail: Judy Roberts.Judy Roberts. (Image: Oxfordshire County Council)

"The proposals are draft at this stage and will be informed by our conversations with businesses and residents especially, as well as traffic and air quality modelling and a business impact assessment."

Green party city councillor, Emily Kerr, added: "The existing pilot ZEZ has already been shown to improve emissions in the city centre, contributing to the overall 8.3 per cent improvement in Oxford’s notoriously bad air quality last year. 

Oxford Mail: Emily Kerr.Emily Kerr. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

"The zone was first proposed back in 2015 giving businesses plenty of time to switch away from the most dirty vehicles, and the charges are tiered according to the level of pollution - they are currently as low as £2 per day."

Councillor Anna Railton, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, said: "Everyone needs to work together to improve the air quality for all those who live and work in our great city.

"The ZEZ expansion is a key public health intervention for improving air quality in the city centre.

"However, this year’s focus should be engagement and communication around the traffic filters coming this autumn.

Oxford Mail: Anna Railton.Anna Railton. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

"What we want to see from any county scheme is good consultation with residents and businesses and a fair approach that doesn’t disadvantage particular groups."

If approved, the ZEZ scheme will be rolled out in 2026.

Mr Malik concluded: "Businesses also bring employment and prosperity to the working class.

"We can't go from one extreme to another."

The city council has been contacted for comment.