Small businesses have called for a grace period for non-compliant vehicles under London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which comes into force in three months.
The ULEZ comes into effect in the current central London Congestion Charge Zone on 8 April.
Vehicles entering the zone that do not meet tough emission standards will have to pay a daily charge of £12.50 for cars, vans and motorcycles and £100 for buses, coaches and lorries.
On Monday (7 January) London mayor Sadiq Khan highlighted a predicted 45% fall in harmful emissions within the zone and urged drivers and business owners who drive in the zone to check whether their vehicles comply with the standards via Transport for London’s (TfL) online tool.
However the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it is ‘time to take the engagement to the next level’, including a ‘soft start to the scheme’ that would see TfL and the mayor writing letters to businesses enter the zone with a non-compliant vehicle, giving them three months to change vehicles or receive backdated charges.
Sue Terpilowski OBE, the FSB’s London policy chair, said: ‘FSB has long argued that tackling air quality is a critical issue for London. We support the drive of the Mayor of London to lead from the front on this issue. However, it must be remembered that the cost of doing business in the capital is forcing many small businesses to re-evaluate their business activity.
‘We are calling for high level communications of the ULEZ in the coming three months and for a light-touch introduction of the scheme to ensure that this policy meets the ambitions of reducing harmful emissions whilst still recognising the impacts on micro and small businesses.’
The FSB said its recent data showed that 63% of small believed their operating costs would increase as a result of the introduction of the ULEZ. Just under half (43%) said it would lower their profit margins, and 26% said that they would be unable to service or deliver to some customers or certain areas.
Around 41% of respondents were unfamiliar with the tighter emissions standards and nearly a third (31%) of businesses unaware that the ULEZ comes into force in April.
The FSB also called for:
- TfL and the mayor to use the final three months to significantly increase spending on external communications on the ULEZ scheme
- TfL to provide a period of grace of twelve months to businesses who have entered the zone who can prove they have a lease that runs up to April 2020 – when the original ULEZ date was set by the previous mayor.
- A substantial increase in the number of electric charging points across the capital by 2020.