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Guildford Low Emission Zone Could Lead to ‘Discrimination’

Published on: 28 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 1 Nov, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A Guildford low emission zone could lead to “discrimination” against people who cannot afford cars that would meet standards, according to a council officer.

Concerns were also raised about introducing any measures too soon which would stop people using the town centre and displace problems elsewhere.

A range of measures to improve air quality in Guildford will be sent to central government for approval after they were debated and voted through by councillors on the Guildford joint committee, made up of members of the county council and the borough council.

Gary Durrant, the borough council’s senior specialist – environmental protection, environment and regulatory services, said this was a draft plan to be sent to the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for final approval.

It included various measures to reduce pollution in the town centre, and some which had not been carried forward into the plan, such as an addition to the town’s Park & Ride facilities, because of the amount of time or money involved.

Mr Durrant told the meeting: “I think a low emission zone of any sort would have an impact but we have to be very conscious of any impact on the economic situation.

“If we’re starting to say only certain people can come into the town centre, that’s discrimination for people who can’t afford to get their car up to a certain standard.”

The report said private cars accounted for around 30-35 per cent of emissions alone and charging cars could lead to a “large improvement in air quality”.

It said: “Charging private cars would, however, have economic impacts on those more deprived and would need further consideration of the wider impacts.”

Low emission zones, such as the one in London and the now ultra-low emission zone which may be extended out to the Surrey border, charge drivers cars that do not meet standards on pollution for entering certain parts of a town or city.

The idea of some form of congestion charge in Guildford has been met with mixed reviews since the borough council said it was one option being considered.

The cost of introducing a clean air zone and/or low emission zone for buses and HGVs was likely to be more than £5 million according to council documents.

In response to concerns the plans did not go far enough, Mr Durrant said measures had to be proportional.

He said: “We couldn’t just turn around and say: ‘Tomorrow, we are going to start charging and that will solve it.’

“Because no one will use the town centre, it will displace everybody and will cause problems elsewhere. So we’ve got to be so conscious of that.”

He said the measures were “all about public health”, improving air quality in the town centre and across the borough and not about “barriers”.

Surrey roads’ traffic almost double the national average

Meeting documents showed that traffic on Surrey’s A roads was almost double the national average and that in the town centre issues including the number of vehicles, congestion, and properties close to the roads all contributed to high levels of pollution.

Park Street was predicted to have the highest annual mean nitrogen dioxide concentration in the town, with buses and coaches contributing around a quarter of that (23 per cent).

Cllr Fiona Davidson

County councillor Fiona Davidson (R4GV, Guildford South-East) said while she understood the costs of improving the park and ride to the town, it had been identified in the report as the “number one measure” to reduce emissions and she’d like to see it introduced along with a low emission zone.

She said: “We have the facilities in place in many instances already. It’s about adding to them, it’s about extending them, it’s about encouraging people to use them.

“We could do that by changing the charging mechanism. I really think we should not dismiss this measure too easily.”

The report was amended to include the possibility of improving the Park & Rides, which have struggled to return to full service since the pandemic, and which need additional funding because money taken in fares does not cover their costs.

Cllr Julia McShane

The borough council’s leader, Cllr Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough), highlighted proposed measures in the report which had proved popular at a public consultation, including 20mph speed limits, an HGV ban around the one-way system and delivery hubs which would mean electric vehicle deliveries into the town.

She said it was important to get the action plan to government for approval, encouraging councillors to vote for it.

Cllr McShane said: “I think if we don’t agree for this report to go forward to DEFRA today then, as far as the public are concerned, we will be seen to be doing nothing to address this really important issue which has such a huge impact on the health and well being of people in our town.”

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Responses to Guildford Low Emission Zone Could Lead to ‘Discrimination’

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 29, 2022 at 7:23 am

    The best measure the council could take would be to review the Local Plan, and reduce the housing number, on the basis of the revised population projections. If not, up to 60,000 more cars will be added to the roads in and around Guildford, which will make air pollution massively worse.

  2. James Wild Reply

    October 29, 2022 at 9:53 am

    This same Council recently approved 550 homes right next to the A3 at Garlick’s Arch. If they were really concerned about the health risks then why did they rubber stamp this application and allocate the majority of new housing estates along this toxic road?

    I suspect that this will all become about collecting money just like the ridiculous SANG policy.

  3. Ken Bickley Reply

    October 29, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    What about people like myself who use the center of Guildford to get from villages in the north to those in the south?

    I live near the Green Man in Burpham and three times in the last month I have needed to travel from Burpham to Shamley Green, Milford and Cranleigh.

    In all three cases I needed to use Onslow Street and the gyratory for both the outward and return journey.

    The other week I had to go to a funeral in Portsmouth and while I can see and hear the A3 from my home I have to go via Parkway and Ladymead to get onto the A3 at what was once the Dennis roundabout.

    I have an old diesel engine car, purchased when the deputy prime minister was telling us that diesel was cleaner than petrol. I am aged nearer 80 than 70 and had hoped that this car would not die before me. I cannot afford to purchase another vehicle and if I go into the centre of Guildford I always use the bus.

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