SOUTHAMPTON clean-air chiefs have backed down over controversial plans to charge commercial vehicles up to £100 a day to enter the city.

The U-turn comes as the city council last night released its plans to combat the city’s pollution levels.

Proposals include new rules to clean up the city’s buses and a new three month try-before-you-buy scheme to encourage taxi drivers to go electric.

Experts will also be brought in to asses the use of more freight trains in the city, in a bid to keep high-polluting HGVs out.

But the document does not include proposals for a clean-air zone charge, which would have seen commercial vehicles, such as taxis, buses and HGVs, charged up to £100 to enter Southampton.

That’s despite the plan previously being the council’s preferred option in its bid to cut pollution.

It was also backed by more than half the residents who responded to the city’s biggest-ever public consultation.

The news has been welcomed by MP Royston Smith, pictured inset, who declared the ditching of the scheme as a “victory for common sense”.

Royston Smith.Royston Smith.

The Southampton Itchen MP said: “The law is clear, the city’s air quality is to be brought into legal limits in the shortest time possible. A charging scheme would not have achieved that.

“What it would have achieved would have been untold damage to jobs and livelihoods. It is a shame that Southampton’s Labour council took so long to realise the proposal to charge vehicles £100 per day to enter the city was never going to happen.”

Last night’s announcement comes weeks ahead of the government-imposed deadline of January 31.

Southampton is one of five local authorities in England, outside of London, to need a plan due to illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide – according to EU law.

The council says its plan, which it expects to cost just under £3 million, will keep the city’s pollution below the legal level in a number of tested areas, including Northam Bridge, Millbrook Road West and West Quay Road.


According to the report, a clean-air zone charge would have led to further pollution reductions than its now proposed non-charging measures.

However, the council says in its report that such a scheme could not be implemented until 2020, would cost about £14 million, and would likely not be financially supported by the government.

The new non-charging measure will now be put forward to the government for consideration, before being implemented.

Councillor Steve Leggett, pictured inset, cabinet member for green city said: “Over the last few years we’ve led on a range of projects which have made a noticeable difference and made our air cleaner from pollution.


“However, we know that there is still a long way to go to tackle this silent killer.”