1,400 drivers caught in first three months of Portsmouth's clean air zone - and government may lose money on scheme

MORE than 1,400 fines were issued for breaches of the Portsmouth clean air zone in the first three months of its operation, new figures show.

By Josh Wright
Friday, 17th June 2022, 5:19 pm
Updated Friday, 17th June 2022, 5:35 pm

On average, 15 fixed penalty notices a day were issued by the city over the period to the end of February, despite a report saying ‘significantly’ fewer non-compliant vehicles were travelling through it than expected.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said this would leave the government 'significantly' short of a return on the £6.6m it paid for the scheme.

'The figures for air pollution show that we have almost got to the point where the clean air zone won't be needed, and it's likely we will reach that point this year,' he said.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Portsmouth clean air zone signs in Kingston Road, Fratton

'There's been fewer vehicles being charged and fewer fines issued and that means it's not going to pay the government back all the money it put in unless it kept it running for years.

'We always said there were better and cheaper options for the government but they refused to listen - they will have a significant shortfall.

'But my hope is that with pollution falling the clean air zone won't be in place much longer. There will be no justifiable reason for the government to keep it in place as long as we demonstrate these lower levels are sustainable.'

More than one million vehicles a month are travelling through the clean air zone although only about four per cent do not meet the required standard and are charged.

When the scheme first launched the council decided not to issue any £120 fines and instead extended the timeframe for paying the charge of either £10 a day for taxis or £50 a day for lorries and buses.

The city council is controversially paying charges on behalf of First Bus this year as part of its subsidies for several routes.

'The number of vehicles being issued with penalty charge notices started at almost half of all chargeable vehicles when the CAZ launched,' the council's quarterly air quality review says.

'PCC was aware that some people may not be aware of the CAZ and so ran an early "soft enforcement" whereby for the first month of oepration, those in receipt of a PCN had a further week's grace to pay the CAZ charge without the additional penalty charge.'

By the end of February, the council had issued 1,421 fines of which about three-quarters had been paid.

The number of non-compliant vehicles travelling through the area was significantly lower than the council forecasted with just 44 a day being subject to a charge, compared to the 306 predicted by the government. The overall number of vehicles travelling through the area was also lower than expected.

This is thought to be due to Covid restrictions brought in this winter and due to a large number of people upgrading their vehicles in advance of the launch of the scheme.

The clean air zone will remain in place until the city hits legally-binding targets for air quality which the latest figures show it is just short of meeting.

Once this is reached, the government will require a further year of data to be gathered to demonstrate that it can be kept below that level and then the clean air zone can be removed.