Oxfordshire councils pick up prestigious clean air award for Zero Emission Zone

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council are celebrating after picking up an award for their work on the Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in Oxford.

The award, in the ‘Clean Air – Projects’ category at the inaugural City Transport and Traffic Innovation (CiTTi) Awards, was given to the councils for their innovative work to provide direct incentives to reduce pollutions while also investing in sustainable transport infrastructure and encouraging people to make positive changes to their travel behaviour.

The two councils introduced the ZEZ pilot to Oxford in February 2022. The first of its kind scheme initially covers all or part of nine streets in the heart of the city centre. Proposals are being developed to extend the ZEZ to a wider area covering much of the city centre. These proposals will be subject to future public consultation.

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council have worked closely together on planning for the scheme, engagement and communications to residents and partners.

The ZEZ pilot will allow the councils to gain useful insights before introducing a larger ZEZ in the city. Currently, the ZEZ pilot restricts polluting vehicles from entering streets between 7am and 7pm every day.  Zero emission vehicles such as electric cars can be used in the zone free of charge. All petrol and diesel vehicles, including hybrids, incur a daily ZEZ charge of up to £10 unless they have a discount or exemption. The charge varies depending on the emission levels of the vehicle.

A major innovation in operating the ZEZ pilot scheme has been the development of a bespoke online vehicle emission checker, date selector and payment portal.

Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said:

The ZEZ pilot is the first of its kind in the UK. It is a highly innovative scheme aimed at significantly reducing air pollution and carbon, improving people’s health and shifting transport away from fossil fuel. It will help encourage people to make positive changes to their travel behaviour, while still maintaining access by car for those who need it.

Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Transport said:

“The ZEZ pilot was a major milestone in our journey as a city to improve air quality and reduce toxic emissions. The pilot follows five years of consultation and working closely with businesses and residents, and is something that we are very proud of. Air pollution is a major contributor to ill health and early deaths which makes dealing with it so vital. I am delighted that the scheme has been recognised for its innovation and importance in helping to clean up our air.

Similar emissions-based charging schemes such as the London low emission and ultra-low emission schemes and the government mandated clean air zones have a proven record of improving air quality.