Londoners brace for expansion of low emission zone

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For Terry Glasscock, owner of a printing house in south-east London, an ambitious initiative by the mayor of the British capital to reduce air pollution has come up against the reality of running a small business through tough times .

Glasscock will have to pay a daily levy of £ 12.50 to make deliveries to its customers from Monday, as an extension of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone, or Ulez, takes effect amid the coronavirus pandemic .

The Ulez, which aims to rid London of older and more polluting vehicles, was originally introduced by Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2019 and focused on the city center.

Any driver of an older, more polluting vehicle must pay a daily charge of £ 12.50 to drive inside Ulez.

As of this week, the Ulez will expand to almost 20 times its original size to include the area between the north and south circular routes, and will stretch from Tottenham in the north to Brixton in the south, and from Brentford in the west to Barking in the east.

This prompted many residents living inside the enlarged Ulez, as well as businesses, to switch to cleaner vehicles to avoid paying the tax, although some struggled to afford it.

And some companies located just outside Ulez must decide to replace their vehicles for the same reason.

Ulez’s border runs through Eltham, where Glasscock’s printing business is based, but while his office is just outside, many of his clients are inside.

He said he couldn’t afford to upgrade his Ulez rule-breaking diesel delivery van, and estimated the mayor’s initiative would likely cost his company an additional £ 300 per month, which prints everything from large vinyl banners to business cards.

“It’s absolutely disgusting,” Glasscock said. “This is another tax that I will have to pay [just to] deliver around the corner. I will have to pass this cost on [to customers]. ”

The Ulez rules are based on the amount of nitrogen oxide emitted by a vehicle and affect gasoline-powered cars and vans with engines that meet Euro 3 emissions standards, which were sold until around 2006. They also apply to diesel vehicles fitted with engines conforming to Euro standards. 5 standards, which were sold until around 2015.

Dean Wilson, who runs a small funeral director in Eltham that reports to Ulez and owns vehicles that comply with his rules, nevertheless expressed concern about the potential impact on his business.

He said the “emotional side” of the tax would be magnified when families, who often visit his rest chapel three to five times before a funeral, are hit with multiple fees.

David Williams, who runs a musical instrument store in Eltham, said the Ulez would hit traders trying to lure customers to their premises after the coronavirus shutdowns.

“The timing is appalling,” he added. “From a trader’s point of view, it’s poorly designed.

Others in Eltham have expressed concern that low-paid caregivers who care for vulnerable people could be hit by the Ulez tax and no longer be able to afford to do their jobs.

The Federation of Small Businesses, a lobby group, called for Ulez’s expansion to be delayed as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, and demanded a new scrapping program covering trucks and vans to help cover the cost of replacing vehicles.

Conservatives at the Greater London Authority have called for Ulez’s expansion to be postponed until next year.

But Transport for London, the mayor’s transport agency that operates Ulez, said dirty air contributes to thousands of deaths in the capital each year, and highlighted how that pollution has halved in the center. -City since 2019.

The body estimated that more than 80% of vehicles inside the expanded Ulez would not violate its rules, but there are expected to be 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 trucks that could be affected by the tax. daily £ 12.50 from Monday.

Ulez appears to have escalated a public backlash against diesel cars that dates back to the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015.

The number of diesel cars on the roads of Greater London has fallen 15% since the Ulez announcement in 2017, six times more than the rest of the UK, according to the Clean Cities Campaign, a coalition of non-governmental organizations. government.

At the Hampstead VW dealership, which will be part of the expanded Ulez, more than half of all inquiries are now for electric vehicles, while three in ten cars sold on the site run on battery power. The rest is gasoline.

“We haven’t sold diesels for over two years,” said Paul Tanner, boss of Alan Day, the site’s dealer group.

Khan is helping less well-off Londoners get rid of their dirty cars with a £ 61million scrapping scheme.

He said repairing the London Air needed “bold action” as he encouraged drivers inside the enlarged Ulez to perform a last-minute check to see if their cars are up to its standards. rules.

“Many more Londoners across the city will reap the benefits of cleaner, healthier air,” he added.

Environmental groups and many residents agree, and Khan has faced calls to further expand Ulez to cover all London boroughs.

Jemima Hartshorn, founder of Mums for Lungs, a clean air group, said Ulez’s enlargement was “absolutely necessary”. “But we are far from being able to say that air pollution will be sorted out,” she added.


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