'I'm on the drivers' side': Sunak tells Khan to 'think twice' on Ulez and orders review into low traffic neighbourhoods

30 July 2023, 10:00 | Updated: 30 July 2023, 10:17

Rishi Sunak will review low traffic neighbourhoods and suggested Khan think twice on Ulez
Rishi Sunak will review low traffic neighbourhoods and suggested Khan think twice on Ulez. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak has told Sadiq Khan to "think twice" about expanding Ulez and ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods.

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The prime minister has told drivers he is "on their side" as he starts a fightback against controversial anti-car measures.

Last week, Khan won a court case after five Tory councils tried to block his plans to expand Ulez across all of London.

Sunak, fresh from holding onto Boris Johnson's Uxbridge seat after the Conservatives turned it into a referendum on the scheme, said his party held the seat because of its impact on people.

Read more: Keir Starmer told to ‘get off the fence’ and intervene in Sadiq Khan's ULEZ expansion after plans ruled lawful

"The Ulez is a policy by the Labour mayor of London, backed by the Labour Party and Keir Starmer and I'd tell them not to do it. No-one is forcing them to do it. They should not do it," he said.

The charge - which was first proposed by Johnson when he was mayor - costs drivers £12.50 a day if they have an older vehicle that doesn't meet environmental standards.

It has proved hugely controversial and prompted a series of protests against Khan.

Sunak wants to review low traffic neighbourhoods
Sunak wants to review low traffic neighbourhoods. Picture: Alamy

The mayor says it is essential to reduce air pollution across the city and has pointed to a package of help for people, businesses and charities if they have vehicles that don't fit the criteria.

Sir Keir Starmer has said the law requires Khan to reduce air pollution once it reaches certain levels but admitted he wants to look into how it could be made "easier for people".

Read more: 'I just don't think Sadiq Khan has listened at all': Andrew Castle reacts to ULEZ expansion

Sunak has also ordered the Department for Transport to review into low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).

These initiatives block off streets with planters, bollards, signs and cameras and have been set up throughout London, as well as cities like Birmingham and Bristol.

They are designed to encourage people to ditch the car and walk, cycle or take public transport.

Low traffic neighbourhoods have proven controversial as they block off cars
Low traffic neighbourhoods have proven controversial as they block off cars. Picture: Alamy

But they have infuriated motorists, who in London face a clobbering. If their car is old enough, they could find themselves paying the congestion charge, the Ulez fee and find themselves taking detours because their route is blocked off by LTNs.

Sunak told The Telegraph: "The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on their cars.

"When I'm lucky enough to get home to North Yorkshire, it's more representative of how most of the country is living, where cars are important.

"I just want to make sure people know that I'm on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them."

Ben Kentish and Steve Tuckwell MP discuss ULEZ

Sunak is said to be particularly concerned about LTNs that don't allow anything bigger than a bike to pass through.

Mark Harper, the transport secretary, has already put a stop to government funding of schemes that focus on "banning cars or making it difficult for motorists".

He said councils should think about getting rid of unpopular LTNs.

It comes amid calls for the Tories to rethink environmental schemes on the back of their success in Uxbridge.

A group of 40 Tory MPs and peers have asked Sunak to push back the planned 2030 imposition of a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles.

That will further add to concerns about whether the UK will be able to meet its net zero commitments.

However, Sunak has insisted the government is not considering a delay.