SOUTHAMPTON civic chiefs have pushed back plans for a Clean Air Zone in the city, and will now submit proposals at the end of January – two months after originally billed.

Councillors say they want to properly analyse all of the 9,299 responses to its 12-week consultation before a plan is sent to Westminster.

Plans were originally earmarked to be submitted this month.

New Forest District Council, however, will hand its proposals in on December 31, with Southampton following suit on January 31.

Before this, the plans will be discussed by city councillors at its Overview and Scrutiny Panel on January 16, and then a decision will be taken at a special Cabinet meeting on January 22 – held in the Guildhall.

The district council will follow a similar course, with discussions being made at its Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel on December 13, with a decision being made at Cabinet on December 18.

Regarding the delay, city councillor Steve Leggett, Green City member, 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.”

As well as the consultation, both authorities say they have commissioned “extensive transport and air quality modelling work from independent consultants” to add to their due-to-be-submitted business plans.

The results of both consultations will be released on December 3.

A spokesperson for the council added: “The delay to Southampton City Council’s business case submission has been caused due to the amount of analysis required following the exceptional volume of consultation feedback, changes to baseline data provided through the consultation that has impacted on the air quality modelling, and feedback that has promoted further exploration into social and economic impacts.

“It is important that all these elements are given the attention they deserve, and this takes time.”

As reported, Southampton is one of five cities across the country that has been tasked by government to lower its nitrogen dioxide amount to the EU-imposed level of below 40 micrograms per cubic air metre. It currently sits at around 42.

The city council says it has been lobbied to achieve this level “in the shortest possible time”.

Thus, it has suggested that a commercially charging clean air zone could be the answer, although civic chiefs add that they have not yet made a decision, and other option – without charging – may be preferred.

If the chargeable zone is implemented, lorries, buses and coaches could all be billed up to £100 a day to enter the city.

Conservative leader Councillor Dan Fitzhenry said: "The clean air charging proposals have been one the biggest and most important consultations ever carried out, so it is imperative we ensure we listen to all those residents and businesses who have legitimately expressed huge concern at these proposals.

"However we have missed the government’s deadline because the Labour council decided to delay going out to consultation for six months meaning the council has been on a very tight timetable all along."