Mayor suspends next phase of London LEZ

Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced on Monday that plans to extend the city’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to large vans and minibuses next year are to be dropped to cut costs for small businesses

Within the zone, limits apply on the amount of particulates (PM10) emitted by certain diesel-engined vehicles. Exposure to PM10) is linked to increased rates of heart disease, breathing difficulties, cancer and to lower life expectancy.

The third phase of the London LEZ was due to start in October 2010, bringing in vans over 1.2 tonnes, motor caravans and ambulances over 2.5 tonnes and minibuses with more than eight seats. Around 90,000 such vehicles enter the zone each year.

It is not known when – or if – the third phase will get the go-ahead.

The decision has been made despite the European Commission’s confirmation last week that it will take the UK to court for consistent breaches of air quality limits on PM10 (ENDS Report 408, p 25).

The zone’s requirements currently apply to lorries over 3.5 tonnes and buses and coaches over 5 tonnes. If these do not comply with Euro III particulate emission standards operators must either fit abatement equipment or pay a fee to enter the zone. Many businesses would opt to replace the vehicle with a new, compliant model.

“Simply put, the cost of fitting pollution equipment or getting a new vehicle would have come as punch in the ribs to those who need our help at this time, would have destroyed profit margins, and endangered our businesses,” said Mr Johnson.

Other methods of cutting particulate pollution have been proposed by the mayor, including subsidising the replacement of the most polluting light goods vehicles.

Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour members of the London Assembly united in criticising the decision. Environmental Protection UK’s chief executive Philip Mulligan said the decision “puts short term economic interests over the long term health of those who live and work in London”.

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