ULEZ has been 'weaponised' by 'conspiracy theorists', Sadiq Khan says

24 August 2023, 10:40 | Updated: 24 August 2023, 11:12

Ulez has been 'weaponised' by 'conspiracy theorists', Sadiq Khan says

By Phoebe Dampare Osei

People who do not believe that COVID was real, and followers of other conspiracy theories, have "latched onto" the "genuine concerns" people have over ULEZ, Sadiq Khan has told LBC.

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In the Mayor of London's regular Speak to Sadiq segment on LBC, James O'Brien asked if he was surprised by some of the coverage of ULEZ since he was given the High Court green light to press on with his "lawful" expansion plans.

READ MORE: Sadiq Khan hails his landmark High Court victory allowing Ulez to expand across London as 'good news'

"I have been surprised", Sadiq Khan answered.

"I didn't expect for there to be people linking my policies to cleaning up the air with conspiracy theories.

"I did expect people to have genuine concerns, and I have been listening to those genuine concerns."

"I didn't expect this to be weaponised by those who you and I have exchanged with, who didn't believe COVID was real, believed in conspiracy theories and so forth", he added.

"I will always try and address genuine concerns Londoners have, but I have been surprised by how they've been latched onto by others", he said.

This week, Rishi Sunak was also blocked by lawyers from overruling the expansion plans.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak 'blocked from overruling Ulez expansion' as fury grows over 'nightmare' scheme

David Lammy reacts as ULEZ is ruled lawful

Vehicle emissions-based schemes have generated more than £418 million in fees and penalty charges in England since March 2021, according to new research.

London's ultra low emission zone (Ulez) - which will expand to cover the entire capital on Tuesday - accounted for the majority of this income, figures obtained by car manufacturer Peugeot via Freedom of Information requests show.

Some £320 million was generated between October 2021 - when the Ulez was extended to the area within the North and South Circular roads - and April 2023.

Birmingham's clean air zone (CAZ) pulled in more than £79 million in charges and fines between June 2021 and April 2023, with Bath's zone attracting nearly £10 million from March 2021 to May 2023.

Bradford's CAZ accumulated £7 million between September 2022 and June 2023, whereas Portsmouth's scheme generated almost £1 million between December 2021 and May 2023.

The Transport Act 2000 requires local authorities in England to reinvest any earnings from clean air zones into the "delivery of local transport policies".

Birmingham City Council states it has invested over £52 million from its programme into hydrogen bus trials, improvements to railway stations and development of better cycling infrastructure.

Bristol's CAZ revenue has been used to provide grants and loans to people and businesses to aid them in making the switch to a vehicle which meets the city's emissions requirements.

Peugeot UK managing director Adam Wood said the company was offering price reductions on new electric cars "to help drivers avoid charges and reduce emissions in our urban centres".

Some opponents of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's Ulez expansion claim the policy is aimed at generating money for Transport for London (TfL).

TfL says the scheme is "not about making money, but about improving the health and well-being of millions of Londoners".

It added that all money received was "reinvested into walking, cycling and public transport".

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The more successful the Ulez proves in cutting emissions, the less money it will rake in for the mayor.

"But if it turns out to be a financial windfall, the worst suspicions of the scheme's opponents will have been realised.

"The numbers will tell the story and we'll all be keenly watching them to see what they reveal, including the bosses of other cities currently contemplating similar schemes."

The Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that the Government had considered using legal powers to block Ulez expansion, but was advised by lawyers that the plan was likely to fail if challenged in court.

Responding to the report, Mr Khan said: "Instead of attacking the powers of devolved mayors, Rishi Sunak should focus on working with us and fulfilling his legal obligation to tackle the UK's toxic air pollution.

"Birmingham, Bath, Sheffield and Tyneside all have clean air zones, funded by the Government.

"Does the Prime Minister want people there to breathe dirty air too? Or just London?"

Mr Khan has repeatedly criticised the Government for not supporting London's scrappage scheme for older, more polluting vehicles, unlike in several other cities.

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