Should the most polluting vehicles be charged to drive in Norwich city centre?

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Charges for the most polluting vehicles should be introduced in Norwich, one of the city's MP has said. Clive Lewis warned scores of people could be dying prematurely because of air pollution as he accused the government of not showing enough urgency over illegal air quality in places like Norwich.

He called for the government to bring a clean air zone to Norwich.

The government is already introducing clean air zones in cities including Birmingham and Leeds. The most polluting old buses, taxis, coaches and lorries will be charged to enter the zone from 2020. Private cars are not included in the plan.

The Norwich South Labour MP said that people with the most polluting vehicles should be encouraged to walk, cycle, and use public transport to get into Norwich.

He said people would be up in arms if the number of people who had died prematurely from air pollution had been murdered or died in a terrorist attack, adding: 'This is a silent deadly killer'.

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But he acknowledged there was a balance to be struck between protecting the city economy and people going about their business without choking to 'death'.

He said it was up to central government to lead the way and to give local authorities the resources and powers to enact clean air zones.

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'People will look back on this in years to come and think why on earth did they allow this to go on so long,' he said.

Mr Lewis said the city was already better accessed by public transport, cycling and walking, and welcomed the pedestrianisation of the city centre. He highlighted the park and rides and bus routes servicing the city.

'It is about making people think before they pollute about how they get into the city centre. This will have an advantage for the city. People don't want to shop in a city where they are putting their health at risk.'

Transport minister John Hayes said local councils would be 'vital' in tackling air pollution and that moves to tackle the issue should reflect local circumstances. But said there should be high national standards.

The transport minister added: 'Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe and certainly we all need and deserve clean air, don't we.'

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