TODAY is the final day that residents can have their say on plans to introduce a clean air zone in Southampton.

The controversial proposals have sparked fierce debate across the city and divided opinion.

So far 6,472 people have completed the consultation – just over 2% of the city’s population.

Now civic chiefs are calling for more to have their say before the chance ends at 11.59pm today.

Feedback received from locals will be used to determine how the zone will look, Southampton City Council has promised.

Ideas have been floated by the authority which include a city-wide chargeable zone that could see commercial vehicles billed up to £100 a day to enter, with taxis charged a lower level of £12.50.

This, the city council has said, will allow it to meet the government’s target to reduce its nitrogen dioxide below the EU-imposed level of 40 micrograms per cubic air metre by 2020. It is currently 42 micrograms.

If the target is not met, the city authority could be landed with a huge fine.

However, council leader Chris Hammond, pictured above, recently told residents that “we will have an open mind about how and what we implement” and will use information from the consultation responses.

“There are a lot of people shouting very loudly, but we need to hear the views from everyone,” he added.

Many businesses have slammed the authority’s proposal on charging commercial vehicles, claiming it will cost jobs and drive companies out of the area.

Many have asked the council to work with companies so it can achieve an outcome which can lower emissions, without hitting trade.

Port and haulage companies have also previously warned that the city’s economy will be hit by the zone.

ABP, which operates the port, claims it could achieve the clean air target “cheaper and more efficiently” than the council.

The council has refuted this, but agreed to listen to any proposals the port put forward during the consultation phase.

City taxi drivers have warned that fares “will have to rise” if a chargeable clean air zone is introduced.

They added they were also “frustrated” by a lack of action from Highways England to make motorways, which border the north and west of the city, less polluting.

In a letter to the city council’s transport portfolio holder, Councillor Jacqui Rayment, the Radio Drivers Association (RDA) has called on the local authority to work with the national body instead of implementing a commercial charging zone, which could see taxis billed £12.50 a day to operate within the city limits.

This, it says, may see some drivers having to give up the profession.

However, the group did acknowledge that “there must be something done about the scale of pollution” in the city.

Clive Johnson, chairman of the association, said: “This charge on taxis and private hire drivers will affect the customers as prices will have to rise to account for this new tax.

“The RDA sees this charge purely as another tax on our trade.”

Mr Johnson added that a £12.50-per-day charge would, over a five-day week, equate to 20% of a driver’s weekly earnings.

However, green campaigners have slammed businesses for valuing “money over health”.

They have even come out, not just to support the chargeable zone, but to ask the council to do even more.

Clean Air Southampton (CAS), along with the local Friends of the Earth (FOE) group, want the council to adopt a class-D charging zone, which would target motorists who drive diesel cars registered more than three to four years ago, as well as commercial vehicles that do not meet Euro-6 emission standards.

Liz Batten of CAS said that this zone would give the city a better chance of lowering pollution than just having a Class B commercial vehicle charging zone – which is proposed by the council.

Liz said: “If a class-D zone was favoured by the council then a public discussion would be held to determine what those charges would be, what exemptions would be granted, and the length of time that would be given for people to make such an adjustment.

“It would not mean that people would have to necessarily give up their cars, but that they would have to stop driving diesel cars into town, or face paying a penalty.”

Council leader Chris Hammond said that although a class-D zone would help Southampton lower its emissions, central government ministers would “not sign off” on the plans because they were not a “proportionate response” to the issue.

This, he said, was because the city was close enough to its “target levels” to not be judged to require a private car-charging zone.

To take part in the consultation, which ends on at 11.59pm tonight, visit: