Mixed reaction to MP Clive Lewis’s call for polluting vehicles to be charged to use Norwich city centre
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
An MP's suggestion that the most polluting vehicles should be charged to head through Norwich city centre has received a mixed reaction.
Labour MP Clive Lewis said he wanted to see Norwich follow cities such as Leeds and Birmingham, which are working to create clean air zones by 2020.
In those cities, owners of the most polluting buses, taxis, coaches and lorries will be charged to enter the zone. Private cars are not included in the plan.
Norwich South MP Mr Lewis said he wanted to see such a zone created in the city.
But Norwich City Council bosses said they were already taking steps to improve air quality and were not currently pursuing the idea of a clean air zone.
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Bert Bremner, Norwich City Council cabinet member for environment and sustainable development, said: 'The city council has a duty to monitor and report on air quality, and we have a thorough knowledge of the situation across the city.
'Working with partners, various actions have been taken to improve air quality in key areas, including busy areas of the city; collaborating with colleagues within city and county council.
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'Figures show that these actions are making a difference, and we will continue to work together to make more improvements.'
Simon Callender, director at ABC Taxis, said he could see the merit of a clean air zone, if it targeted the right vehicles.
He said: 'I think the biggest polluters in the city centre are buses. The private hire trade has got a lot cleaner and a lot of our drivers now have hybrids, so I don't think we are huge polluters. 'Maybe if the government could sort out some sort of subsidy to help change fleets over to hybrid vehicles.'
Martin Schmierer, leader of the opposition Green group at Norwich City Council, said: 'The Green Party has been leading on the issue of air pollution, both locally and nationally, for many years. I am pleased to see that Clive Lewis has finally caught up on this vital issue in Norwich.'
He said he was keen to see a charge on diesel vehicles and said: 'Money from a charge on the most polluting cars could be used to fund a diesel scrappage scheme, so those who bought diesel cars in good faith can be given vouchers for bikes, public transport or low-emission cars.'
A spokesman for bus operator First said: 'At First Eastern Counties we see ourselves very much as part of the solution to pollution and congestion in the city.
'Our double deckers regularly carry large volumes of passengers, which help limit the use of cars, the biggest cause of both congestion and pollution in Norwich.
'We're also not complacent when it comes to the impact of our own fleet on the environment. Indeed, we've invested significantly in new buses in the last few years, and now for example operate 20 vehicles with the latest environmentally friendly EURO VI engines, the only operator in the area to do so.
'This state of the art engine technology produces 95pc less oxides of nitrogen emissions than the buses they replace and as a result are helping improve air quality across our network.
'In addition, we have partnered with Norfolk County Council to retrofit 15 vehicles this year to further improve emission levels in the city.
'We have had positive discussions with representatives of the Green Party and the County Council and will continue to invest in new technology working in partnership to deliver sustainable solutions.'
What people in Norwich had to say
Conor Martin, 19, a barista from Earlham, said: 'It's not too bad here and certainly not when compared to other places. But the city is becoming more and more populated and something like a clean air zone could be a good thing in the future.'
Retired Pauline Bagdale, 81, from Hellesdon, said: 'It's a very good idea. Something really needs to be done to clean the air up for the future of the children in the city.'
Caroline Ashby, 53, a store manager from Norwich, said: 'There shouldn't be a charge and there are enough pedestrian zones already. A better solution would be to reduce the price of public transport. It has become too expensive and it means people are more likely to end up driving into the city.'
Adam Barnard, 31, a store supervisor from Norwich, said: 'Instead of a charge, maybe there should be a limit on the number of certain vehicles or a size restriction. It would be great if Norwich could be the city that sets the example.'