There is a clear need for legislation to address pollution in urban areas, but the impact on businesses must be considered if our economy is to prosper.
Earlier this month the ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) came into force across London, meaning older vehicles used to travel through the ULEZ area that do not comply with modern environmental standards will be required to pay a daily surcharge to combat air pollution in the capital.
There is no doubt that vehicle pollution must be addressed, but polling from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) suggests that there is a lack of understanding of the charge amongst businesses. 79% of those asked claimed to know little or nothing about the impact of the ULEZ on their business, whilst 88% knew nothing or little about the ULEZ emissions standards. Questions around the pricing, the ULEZ area and its potential benefits garnered similar results.
All businesses need to be able to plan for the long-term, but small businesses are particularly vulnerable to unforeseen expenditure and uncertainty. The Mayor of London must work with business to ensure that ULEZ can be implemented responsibly without exposing businesses to unnecessary risk.
There have also been calls for common sense to be taken in issuing penalties to businesses in breach of the ULEZ regulations in its early stages. David Frost, Director General of British Chamber of Commerce said:
“For as long as the Mayor’s communication campaign has not reached everyone who needs to know, TfL should issue advisory notices to businesses infringing the rules, rather than immediately imposing the heavy penalties the law requires.”
The issues with ULEZ echo the concerns of the Freight Transport Association, which claimed that the UK’s urban strategy is ignoring the central role that urban freight plays in the movement of goods. The lesson is clear, there is a need for the UK to address the pollution in urban areas, but a clear, collaborative approach is needed to ensure that businesses are equipped to meet regulations.