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Council aims to stop Clean Air Zone in Stoke-on-Trent city centre

Published: Thursday, 18th January 2024

A team from Stoke-on-Trent City Council is drawing up a fresh plan to stop a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) being needed in the city leading to some vehicles being charged a daily fee for driving in the zone.

The UK government requires the council to reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution along a part of Victoria Road in Fenton, where pollution exceeds the legal limit.

In 2021 the council’s previous administration, following the government's assessment process, identified a CAZ as the way in which pollution could be reduced in the quickest possible time.

Under a CAZ, some vehicles including older buses, taxis, vans and heavy goods vehicles would be charged to drive in to or through the zone. But owners of private cars and motorbikes wouldn’t be charged.

Most pollution is caused by older vehicles, so as time has passed, the levels of pollution have reduced around Victoria Road, but there is still a small pollution exceedance that needs to be tackled.

Council leader Jane Ashworth said: “During our time as opposition we always said that a CAZ would have a negative impact on the city’s economy, and we should be allowed to bring in other ways to improve air quality.

“It’s vital we do this for the public health of our residents and visitors while supporting businesses. Pollution levels have naturally dropped over time as fewer older vehicles are on the roads as their owners have bought newer models.

“We are now making the case clear to the government that a CAZ would be a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and I’m glad to say that they are allowing us to submit a revised plan under which a CAZ would not be needed.”

Councillor Amjid Wazir, cabinet member for city pride, enforcement and sustainability, said: “We’re working hard on finishing a plan that doesn’t include a CAZ. To improve air quality, we must improve traffic flow through this area and make it easier for people to choose other ways to travel. Our new plan proposes better junctions to allow traffic to flow more smoothly and work to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We also hope to offer grants to support taxi drivers to upgrade their vehicles to ones that are less polluting.

“The details of each part of this package aren’t finalised yet and are dependent on us making the business case, but I'm really pleased that the government is open to hear how we can use other methods to continue to improve air quality in our city.”

The government isn’t expected to decide if it will accept the city council’s new plan until the full business case has been submitted to them. This is likely to be done during the summer.