A CHARGEABLE clean air zone will “finish” small businesses, and drive large employers out of the city, some of Southampton’s top industry bosses have warned.

The proposed up-to-£100-a-day charge for commercial vehicles to enter the city is part of the council’s tasked goal of lowering nitrogen dioxide levels to 40 micrograms per cubic air metre by 2020.

But port, ferry, and transport chiefs – some of the city’s biggest industries – have condemned the plans, adding the target can be achieved without the need for a chargeable zone.

Speaking at a special round table discussion event, hosted by Newsquest and ABP Southampton, port boss Alastair Welch, pictured, suggested enhancing public transport in the region would be a better use of the council’s money, as it would get cars off the roads.

He added he had concerns about the council’s emission data, claiming they do not take into account the decline of diesel car sales, or new technological enhancements in cleaner ships.

But, as reported, the authority stands by its figures.

Air pollution expert Dr Matthew Loxham added that it would be “difficult to measure” any health benefits of the proposed zone – be it large or small.

“In my own opinion, a chargeable zone does not have the affect that it is expected to have,” said Dr Loxham.

“A lot of vehicles put out more emission than manufacturers predict, in the real world.

“They often underestimate it (due to the process of testing they use).

“The council should be looking to lower all pollution types, not just nitrogen dioxide, to make a more significant impact.”

As reported, Southampton is one of five cities in the UK under pressure from Westminster to improve its air quality by 2020 – or face a massive EU fine.

The city’s nitrogen dioxide level currently sits at 42 micrograms.

This is two micrograms above the legal limit.

Health experts says more than 100 deaths a year in the city are attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.

The authority claims that air pollution has the same equivalent impact as passive smoking, affecting the most vulnerable residents, including those with asthma.

The plans are currently in consultation phase.

“The place where clean air zones have the most effect is Germany,” added Dr Loxham.

“It has a national network of zones.

“It is no good having them in towns and cities scattered around the country.

“They need to be everywhere (to make a significant impact).”

Another to disagree with the proposals was MP for Itchen Royston Smith, claiming it will be the end of many independent companies that use Southampton.

He said: “I have been contacted by a small business owner who owns and operates seven cement trucks.

“Only two of those trucks are compliant with the [proposed] CAZ regulations.

“If it comes in, he will have to lay off five of the seven people he employs.

“Like him, all these small business from the city, and that use the city, they will be toast. They will be finished.

“That small cement business is a prime example of the people that are going to be priced out of working.”

He added: “I just want to put on record that it is a disgrace that Southampton City Council has not turned up to this meeting today, despite being invited and promising to send a representative.

“They cannot be bothered to send anyone.

“It is a disgrace because I myself am going on holiday in 45 minutes, and I have still attended.

“Someone from the council, therefore, should’ve been able to.”

In response, a spokesperson for the authority said: “The council has already carried out an extensive round of briefings for all stakeholders – including the general public – about the proposed clean air zone and associated measures to improve their quality.

“We are keen to gather as many views as possible on plans for the zone, so would encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to take part in the consultation.”

To have your say on the consultation, which ends on September 13, visit: www.southampton.gov.uk/council-democracy/have-your-say/clean-air-consultation.aspx