Portsmouth council boss blast city's 'badly thought-out' clean air zone plan as fresh exemptions are backed
FRUSTRATED councillors have pushed through fresh plans to a controversial ‘badly thought-out’ clean air zone in Portsmouth.
Top politicians sitting on Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet committee agreed a raft of new – and final alterations – to the plan, which is being forced on the area by central government.
Among the recommendations agreed by councillors during the meeting – the first back at Portsmouth Guildhall since the coronavirus pandemic began – included a list of exemptions to the clean air zone plan.
The measures followed a previous public consultation into the new emissions zone, which is hoped will slash the city’s air pollution level once it goes live.
However, during the meeting the city council’s boss, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, blasted the government for ‘forcing’ the proposal on the island in a move which he said would ultimately do nothing to slash pollution rates.
He said: ‘We’ve been told there are no alternatives. There are alternatives. We know the clean air zone plan by the government is very badly thought out and that it’s just about diverting pollution. It’s not about reducing pollution.
‘The government aren’t interested in reducing air pollution, they’re just interested in moving it and increasing it in other places.
‘It shows a real lack of imagination that is being imposed on the people of Portsmouth, that will be bad for businesses and all the people on the Isle of Wight.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the impact of the clean air zone in the city would simply ‘divert’ traffic from the city, to other parts instead of addressing the problem of pollution.
He was concerned visitors to the Isle of Wight would simply choose other routes to dodge Portsmouth – like the Lymington to Yarmouth and Cowes to Southampton ferry routes.
‘It’s badly thought out but that’s the government’s decision for you and it won’t surprise anybody that they have thought this out very, very badly,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson added.
Among the recommendations agreed by the cabinet included a ‘stop gap’ exemption to help people who have applied for funding to replace or upgrade their vehicle, but for reasons outside of their control have been unable to get a compliant vehicle before the launch of the clean air zone.
Emergency rail replacement buses and coaches, required at short notice when trains break down, will also be offered an exemption.
The same would not apply for pre-planned works to the railway over weekends.
Horse transporters that are classified as heavy goods vehicles will be offered 10 trips a year through the zone without paying, in a move to support those living on the Isle of Wight in need of specialist veterinary care on the mainland.
However, a similar proposal to allow owners of large motor homes to be exempt from the clean air zone was refused.
Twelve city refuse collection vehicles operating within the zone have been granted a two-year exemption from paying the charge.
Portsmouth’s clean air zone will launch in November.
For further details, see cleanerairportsmouth.co.uk