FEARS for Portsmouth's poorest families have been raised as the council leader admitted it is 'highly likely' a charge on driving in the city will be imposed by the government - and it could cost up to £20 a day.
After the council's plea for funding to improve air quality was dismissed Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson warned the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will probably enforce a clean air zone on Portsea Island.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: 'It is almost certain the government will impose this on us.'
Vehicles that are not considered compliant would have to pay each day to drive in the city. These include petrol cars registered before 2006 and diesel cars from prior to 2015.
Although Cllr Vernon-Jackson acknowledged the need for clean air he worried about the impact of a charge. 'Some of the poorest people in the city might not be able to afford a compliant car,' he said.
'And this is a disincentive for businesses to come to the city. If that's going to mean fewer jobs that could mean more people living in poverty. This in turn leads to worse health, which is what the clean air zone is trying to help.'
The council has until October provide a plan on how to improve air quality without the need for a chargeable zone, or the measure will be imposed.
Cllr Cal Corkery for Charles Dickens ward, which has the highest levels of poverty in the city said: 'I think it's a worry around affordability. I would be looking to see what the council and the government can do in way of mitigation for people on low incomes.
'This seems to be a culmination of lots of things as the council are failing to tackle air quality issues. I do think we are in a desperate position and need to think about a radical change.'
Green Party member Tim Sheerman-Chase added: 'We need to take cars off the road that is true but people, especially those who might be forced to give up their cars, need alternative methods of transport.
'So public transport has to improve and might need to be made cheaper - maybe people who give up their cars can be subsidised for public transport.'
Data released today (June 13) revealed that last year 13 areas in the city registered high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air that breached 'safe' levels as set by the EU and UK law.
This was up from two in 2017, although in that time Defra directed additional locations to be tested, which resulted in most of the increase.
Major areas of concern continue to be the A3 approaching Victoria Park and Kingston Road, Fratton Road and London Road - described as 'the spine of the city.'
Suggestions on the zone can be made via the council's clean air zone survey here.