ULEZ: Motorists face pollution charge as low emission zone expands

25 October 2021, 00:02 | Updated: 25 October 2021, 12:22

The ULEZ has expanded across the capital.
The ULEZ has expanded across the capital. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

London's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has been significantly expanded, affecting tens of thousands of motorists.

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Drivers of older vehicles, which do not comply with minimum emissions standards, are being charged £12.50 to drive in the ULEZ, which became 18 times larger on Monday.

The pollution charge zone has been running across central London since 2019 but now covers as far as - but not including - the North and South Circular.

The charge is set to apply all day, every day, with the exception of Christmas Day.

Whether or not a vehicle is liable depends on how much nitrogen dioxide (NO2) it emits, as it can damage lungs and exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma, and lung and heart disease.

Those who fail to pay face being handed a Penalty Charge Notice of £160, reduced to £80 if paid within a fortnight.

Read more: ULEZ: Where will it apply and is your car exempt?

Read more: Sadiq Khan Refuses To Give Charities An Exemption To ULEZ

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said six out of 10 families in the expanded zone do not own a car, adding: "It’s the poorest Londoners least likely to own a car who suffer the worst consequences of air pollution."

When quizzed by LBC’s James O’Brien on why London’s expanded ULEZ did not have a grace period similar to the one implemented in Birmingham that saw workers under a certain wage threshold exempt to begin with, Mr Khan said: "That’s why I’ve given a four year grace period. I announced this policy first actually in 2016."

James pointed out that Mr Khan was talking about a warning, not a grace period, something Mr Khan denied, accusing James of being "literally wrong".

"I’m literally not," said James in response.

Small businesses in the capital have expressed concern about the impact of the charges.

Michael Lloyd, managing director of LTC Scaffolding, said his firm had invested £300,000 to upgrade some of its fleet to meet ULEZ standards, but still expected to rack up around £2,500 a week in charges for its non-compliant vehicles.

The ULEZ expansion is "a good idea" but it should have been postponed for at least six months," Mr Lloyd said.

"The only thing is the timing.

"Businesses are on their knees because of the pandemic, and this is just another kick in the teeth."

Read more: Climate change: Sadiq Khan to be named new chair of C40 cities at COP26

As a result, the Federation of Small Businesses has called for a one-month "period of grace" with enforcement delayed to give firms "time to adjust".

However, small businesses, charities and Londoners who are disabled or on low incomes can apply to Transport for London (TfL) for a £2,000 grant if they scrap a non-compliant car and purchase a cleaner vehicle.

Schemes for vans, minibuses and lorries have been suspended due to "unprecedented demand and limited funds".

TfL said four out of five vehicles registered within the new, larger zone were already compliant but estimated that 130,000 were not.

Ahead of the changes, more than one million letters were sent to people who drive within the new boundaries to alert them, along with over 600,000 leaflets.

London is not the only area to have pollution charges, with them also operating in Birmingham and Bath.

They have been proposed for other cities across England and Scotland as well, including Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Portsmouth.