Portsmouth council ditches plan to hike city centre parking charges as it approves congestion charge-style zone

Portsmouth City Council will proceed with plans for a class B clean air zone. Picture: Shutterstock
Portsmouth City Council will proceed with plans for a class B clean air zone. Picture: Shutterstock
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CITY retailers can breathe a sigh of relief as proposals to increase charges at council car parks have been dropped in the latest plans to improve air quality.

Portsmouth City Council will press ahead with preparations for a clean air zone on Portsea Island, which will charge older, non-compliant buses, coaches, taxis and heavy goods vehicles.

High street shops had told The News they were concerned about plans to increase parking charges or remove spaces from its car parks.

But that proposal was dropped at a cabinet meeting today.

Council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The government is trying to keep high streets alive but doing this would drive people out of the city to shop in retail parks off the island.’

A number of other measures, including writing to parents of schoolchildren about the benefits of walking, installing electric charging points in taxi ranks and asking government a second time for cash to provide free bus passes for all in the city will also be pursued.

Speaking at cabinet this afternoon, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We will ask the director of public health for Portsmouth to write to parents and tell them about the benefits of walking to school.

‘Children actually breathe in less pollution when walking than in a car, but a lot of parents think they are doing them good by driving them.'

Under a directive from the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs the council needs to prove it can reduce air pollution to a ‘safe’ level in the shortest possible time.

If they fail, a clean air zone charging all drivers in the city will be imposed.

Instead the council is confident a class B zone - which excludes private motorists - would be successful along with these other measures.

The council's head of environment and climate change, Cllr Dave Ashmore, said: ‘We can't just rely on a clean air zone to solve our pollution problems.

‘As soon as we hit compliance the zone can be removed, which doesn't help.

‘We need to put other things in place that will help with air quality in the long term.'

A report will now be prepared for Defra.