Why city's planned clean air zone charge for polluting vehicles is dividing opinion

Will you be impacted by this clean air zone? Tap to watch a video report

Business owners say it will have an economic impact while some environmentalists believe it won't go far enough.

Portsmouth's planned clean air zone has divided opinion and while people, certainly the ones I've spoken to, agree that action to tackle pollution is needed, the city council is facing criticism over the introduction of the scheme in November.

It will mean drivers of the most polluting vehicles paying £50 a day to enter the city centre while some taxi and private hire vehicles will be charged £10 charge.

Private cars and vans are exempt.

A £3.2 million fund has been made available which offers grants to help business owners install technology to make their vehicles comply with the rules.

  • Councillor Dave Ashmore, cabinet member for the environment, explains the decision to introduce the clean air zone this year

  • Watch: how will the clean air zone work

Certain vehicles will be exempt...

  • a vehicle that’s ultra low emission

  • a disabled passenger tax class vehicle

  • a disabled tax class vehicle

  • a military vehicle

  • a historic vehicle

  • a vehicle retrofitted with technology accredited by Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS)

  • certain types of agricultural vehicles

For Josh Harris, director of Wight Coaches based on the Isle of Wight, the grant is worthless as his fleet of nine-year old coaches cannot be retrofitted.

It means he will have to pay the charge because the cost of a new coach is £200,000. It's the last thing he needs after losing money through the pandemic.

"We completely understand where Portsmouth city council are coming from in having this but we just feel there should be some exemption for coach operators. A coach, if full of people, takes cars off the road and that surely is a good thing."

"As a coach operator I feel like we are held to ransom. The daily charge is what we are going to have to pass on to our customers. It might put groups off traveling to the Isle of Wight."

  • Will Portsmouth's pollution problem become Southampton's?

In 2019 there were 10 areas of Portsmouth that exceeded the legal limits. The city council say that without the clean air zone there will be two location exceeding the average limits in 2022.

The Chief Executive of Wightlink Ferries Keith Greenfield believe the problems with air quality in Portsmouth will become Southampton's.

He thinks coach drivers and hauliers will avoid Portsmouth to get to the Isle of Wight and cross via Southampton instead.

  • Does the zone go far enough?

Environmentalist Tim Sheerman-Chase Campaigner has been calling for action to tackle air quality in this city for years with his campaign 'Let Pompey Breathe'

However, he thinks the clean air zone that's been set out will have very little impact as private cars aren't included and the zone only focusses on the south west of the city.

Campaigners believe the clean air zone will do little to deal with the pollution problem Credit: Campaigners believe the clean air zone will do little to deal with the pollution problem

Tim says, "Unfortunately we need something a lot more ambitious to tackle the problems. In London for example you'd think 'you'd be crazy to drive there' because of the parking because of the traffic.

"We need to get to a similar mentality where people think it's actually easier to cycle or to take the bus. We need to be moving to that regime."

Portsmouth City Council will use some of the £3.4 million of funding for the CAZ to install charging points for electric vehicles, as well as cameras and signage to install the zone.

The authority says it's also investing £100 million to improve bus, walking and cycling journeys, introduce a rental e-scooter trial and create secure cycle storage in residential areas.

The zone will come into place in November.