If government goes ahead with the introduction of Clean Air Zones, ministers must act to support merchants to replace old vehicles with cleaner, greener models. That is the message from the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) to the new Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP.
The rise in commercial journey in recent years means action must be taken first to alleviate harmful emissions from HGVs & LGVs, said the BMF. Funding ought to go towards retrofitting vehicles with devices that limit exhaust emissions – or replacing older, polluting lorries, trucks and vans.
The BMF was responding to a consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) seeking views on improving air quality by tackling nitrogen dioxide pollution.
John Newcomb, BMF Managing Director, said: “We support the Government’s ambitions to improve air quality. However, it is imperative that local authorities exhaust all possible options before resorting to the imposition of charging zones.”
“Government at all levels must understand that the cost of doing business is already too high – and Clean Air Zones represent another administrative and financial burden. The worry is that different authorities take different approaches to one another that simply adds to merchants’ costs.”
Whitehall and local government want to implement Clean Air Zones to improve air quality and tackle pollution from diesel vehicles. Several local authorities aim to restrict access to their city based on the type of fuel or vehicle – and businesses are faced with new penalty charges to enter.
Mr Newcomb added that current proposals do not address uneven treatment of private motoring and business traffic. Diesel is the fuel used in lorries, trucks and vans to carry commercial loads. DEFRA is not requiring cities to levy charges on private cars (esp. diesel) motorcycles or mopeds.
In its lobbying, the BMF emphasised a need for government to work with its members – both in and outside Zones – not against them. Merchants perform a vital function as the ‘last-mile’ link in delivering to building sites and have no choice but to use diesel, the BMF told DEFRA.
Places that are in line to introduce Clean Air Zones are (firstly) Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby & Southampton and (secondly) Greater Manchester and Bristol & South Gloucestershire.