It is feared that coach companies will simply go elsewhere if they are forced to pay a surcharge of £100 to come to the Island. Furthermore, the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) could have a terrible knock-on effect to Island jobs if businesses were to take their trading elsewhere.
In a statement issued today, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council Councillor Dave Stewart has said:
“The IW Council is objecting to the proposed zone as there has been no impact assessment for the Island and we continue to have no say over how it will work, even though it will be detrimental to our economy.
“Island residents and businesses are reliant on the transportation of goods and undertaking of services by bus, coach, private hire vehicles and particularly heavy goods vehicles through Southampton – many of which are diesel powered.
“Figures show more than 100 HGV vehicles per day use the Southampton/East Cowes Red Funnel route, which will be in the CAZ.
“Coach operators based on and off the Island bring more than 1000 coach journeys via Southampton during the summer months, in addition to the regular year-round traffic that gives much needed revenue to our tourism sector out of season.
“The fact there could be a possible charge of £100-a-day by 2019 for vehicles that do not meet emissions standards without consideration for the Island and its unique position is unacceptable and will harm our tourism and manufacturing industries and potentially cost jobs.
“For example, coach operators’ business models will be seriously impacted by a charge of £100 and the Island runs the risk they will not visit.
Discussions are underway to introduce this CAZ as soon as next year, but Cllr Stewart has said:
“We also do not understand why other European cities have until 2025 to achieve a reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as part of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive, but Southampton City Council and the Government want it in place six years earlier.
“Everyone wants to have cleaner air and this council is supportive and committed to helping the environment. However, the impact on the Island and the potential for jobs to be threatened by a CAZ over the Solent has not being fully recognised and are very real.
“The council wants traffic identified as entering the Clean Air Zone, and which is making an onward journey to and from the Isle of Wight, made exempt from the charging regime for a substantial period so that operators and owners can update their fleets and eventually comply with the CAZ.
“This position has been submitted as part of Southampton City Council’s consultation and it will be communicated to ministers too.
“As leader of this council, I cannot stand by and see other authorities and agencies make decisions that are detrimental to this Island’s residents and businesses. It is simply unfair.
“The Isle of Wight’s unique needs must be recognised and the council will be making all necessary representations to ensure our voice is heard and that mitigation or exemptions are put in place to protect the Island’s economy and jobs, if the CAZ is put into action.”