Derby City Council has challenged the Government to support a targeted local scrappage scheme in the city, arguing that a clean air zone will not help it achieve air quality compliance.
Derby along with four other cities – Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham and Southampton – have been ordered introduce clean air zones (CAZs) before 2020.
In the third air quality debate hosted by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), ACFO, Energy Saving Trust and Fleet News, Derby City Council said it was in no rush to jump on the 'CAZ charging bandwagon'.
In a letter to the environment minister, Therese Coffey, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and public protection at Derby City Council, Councillor Asaf Afzal, said: “The council has recently sought legal advice, in part as a response to your department’s direction but also to ensure that it is able to take account of the legal actions that have been brought against Government, and whilst it notes it is required to develop and test various options, including chargeable access restrictions, there is no legal mandate for any charging scheme to be implemented.
“The legal advice is clear that the council is required to achieve compliance with air quality limits as quickly as possible.”
Cllr Afzal argues that a city centre focused charging scheme is unlikely to achieve the required levels of compliance as many vehicle owners may have no alternative, or will simply elect to pay a charge rather than change their vehicle or travel behaviour.
He said: “The council has no intention of implementing measures that simply introduce additional costs for residents and businesses, whilst not achieving the necessary air quality improvements.
“The council predicts that such a scheme would result in severe negative economic impact, affecting businesses, jobs and household incomes, and it would not deliver compliance as quickly as possible.”
Following a meeting with the environment minister on February 28, Cllr Afzal said that she had accepted the council’s position.
He added: “We have an opportunity to work with partners to develop a targeted local scrappage scheme, which will achieve the legal targets for NO2 in the quickest possible time, and provide significant local economic benefits.”
The council is legally required to submit a full business case to the secretary of state before September 15.
Cllr Afzal added: “If the business case is accepted then Government will fully fund the scheme, along with a package of supporting measures for improved sustainable travel. The request for funding is likely to be around £35 million.”
However, in a letter to Cllr Ranjit Banwait, the leader of Derby City Council, Coffey berated the local authority for a lack of detail.
She said she was “disappointed” that Derby has been “consistently late” in submitting evidence and Defra had still not seen any of the detail or modelling outputs for the options Derby has been been developing. “This is of serious and increasing concern,” she said.
“I would expect you to have considered a range of options, then identified a short list of options that can deliver compliance in the shortest possible time. “From this short list of options, you are expected to provide evidence on your selection of a preferred option that must demonstrate how your preferred option would achieve compliance in the shortest possible time and how it would be fair, effective and good value.”
She also questioned how details of the scrappage scheme proposal presented in the local media varied significantly from that outlined to the department.
She said that the next step should be to commence “urgent and open discussions” with the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) to examine the evidence behind the proposed targeted scrappage scheme.
She added: “I should underline that I cannot take a view on your proposal without the information outlined above but I do want to encourage you to be realistic in your assessment of the options.”