New Forest traders face £100 city congestion charge in plans to tackle pollution hotspot

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Redbridge Causeway takes the A35 into Southampton

PLANS to cut pollution on the edge of the New Forest which could levy a £100 daily congestion charge on commercial vehicles entering Southampton will be revealed next month.

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The two neighbouring councils have been working together on measures to drive down nitrogen dioxide, which is above legal limits in parts of the city and also at a spot on the A35 on the eastern edge of Totton.

Southampton’s proposals include charging a daily fee of up to £100 for buses, coaches and HGVs that do not meet the highest Euro VI emissions standards, and £12.50 for equivalent taxis.

That could affect traders that make up many of the 60,000 vehicles that use the A35 to travel between the New Forest and the city every day.

Private cars, light goods vehicles, motorcycles and minibuses would not be charged under the plans.

After a 12-week public consultation which drew 9,299 responses, the next stage is for both councils to submit separate Clean Air Zone business cases to the government.

Alongside four other cities, they have been ordered by Whitehall to take steps by 2020 to tackle the pollution problem. If unaddressed, it could lead to the UK being fined under EU clean air regulations.

Speaking for both councils, Cllr Steve Leggett, Southampton’s cabinet member for a green city, said: “Clean air is vital to the health and wellbeing of people in the Southampton and the New Forest, and the huge response to the consultation shows the strength of feeling.

“Our shared priority is to reduce dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide to within legal limits in the shortest time possible. I’d like to thank local residents and organisations for taking the time to share their thoughts and ideas.

“The consultation feedback, in conjunction with the technical assessment results, will jointly inform the business case we submit.”

The councils have also commissioned transport and air quality modelling work from independent consultants to inform a technical assessment as part of their proposals.

The first will be presented to New Forest district councillors on 13th December at a meeting of the environment overview and scrutiny panel.

A final decision will be taken when it goes before NFDC’s Conservative ruling cabinet on 18th December, before submission on 31st December.

Southampton City Council’s cabinet is set to agree its plan on 22nd January next year in time for submitting it on 31st January.

The authority said its later timescale was due to “the exceptional volume of consultation feedback”, data changes affecting the air quality modelling, and further exploration of social and economic impacts.

A city council spokesperson said: “Despite the delay to the business case submission it is anticipated that there will be no impact on the delivery of compliance by 2020.”

The consultation results will be released on 3rd December on both councils’ websites.

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