PORT bosses, taxi drivers, and haulage companies are looking to revolt over plans to charge up to £100 a day to enter the city.

Southampton City Council want to bill commercial vehicles as soon as they enter the city’s boundaries, if they don’t meet tough emission criteria.

But companies, plus the Road Haulage Association, say this could kill the economy, resulting in trade moving elsewhere to avoid the charge.

Itchen MP Royston Smith also claims that the charge would “trash the docks beyond recognition”, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

But council chiefs remain defiant, claiming the chargeable zone follows government guidance in reaching the target to slash pollution levels in the “quickest possible” time.

As reported, Southampton is one of five cities in the UK under pressure from Westminster to improve its air quality by 2020 – or face a massive EU fine.

The city needs to reduce its nitrogen dioxide level to below 40 micrograms per cubic air metre. It is currently 42 micrograms.

The council says more than 100 deaths a year in Southampton are attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.

The authority also claims that air pollution has the same equivalent impact as passive smoking, affecting the most vulnerable residents, including those with asthma.

But, speaking at the council’s overview and scrutiny management committee opposition councillors labelled the plan a “shambles”.

Port and taxi bosses claim a zone is not needed, and that levels are reducing at a fast enough rate without it – action has already seen it reduce by six micrograms in the past seven years.

Speaking about the data, director at ABP Southampton Alastair Welch, pictured, said: “This shows that there is evidence that the good work already in place is working. Long may it continue.

“Improving air quality is what we all want to do, but we need to make sure there is no unintended consequences to people or businesses.”

He added that ABP would be presenting its own alternative proposals this week.

However, council leader Chris Hammond, pictured,+ said the charge from commercial vehicles that aren’t Euro-6 compliant – like London’s congestion zone – is needed.

He said: “If measures come forward that can achieve the same outcome (as a charging zone), then we would look into them.

“However, we have been told by the government that we must use a method that reaches the result in the quickest possible way – which this does.”

Cllr Hammond added: “It is the right thing to do.”

But city Tory MP Royston Smith blasted the Labour council for its “haste” in pushing the zone through – something the civic leaders deny.

“We need to think more about the impact of this charge,” he said.

“The cost on businesses transporting from the docks will be huge. If the goods that are being transported are cheap, then that £100 impacts more than if the items are expensive – this will affect the cost of items in shops.”

He added: “If the European competitors are not doing this, then we are at a disadvantage and companies will look to go to other ports.

“You will be making a decision that will affect thousands of jobs, putting them at risk.”

Opposition Conservative councillors were also unhappy with the plans, which are due to go to cabinet tomorrow for approval.

They also said the council refused to release recently recorded air quality data, following “legal advice”.

Committee chair, councillor Peter Baillie, said: “We are here to scrutinise the report, but without the data, how can we do this? It is a shambles.”

Tory councillors are now calling on the council to delay the plans until they can be properly scrutinised.

But, taking to Twitter, Millbrook Labour member David Furnell claims the opposition just want clean air action to be “slowed down”.

If the proposals are approved, a 12-week consultation will start on June 21.

However, local businesses have reacted to the plans, with some unhappy saying it will damage their companies.

Owner of Horton Heath-based AFS Haulage Andrew Seagreve was one of those, asking why the public weren’t also being charged.

He said: “It’s not fair to put all the blame of emission on the haulage industry. What about cars? If we’ll have to pay we’ll have to charge the clients more. We all agree the haulage industry wants to do what it can but give us time to do that not 18 months. The answer is give us more time. They have to be sensible.”

Also, a representative from ferry company Red Funnel claimed the company has lost business to Portsmouth, due to the threat of the charge.

He said: “It will affect a third of our business if the charge is brought in. It will also hurt both the Isle of Wight’s and the mainland’s economy.”

Taxi bosses too came out against the plans, saying that the city council’s grant system -which gives drivers incentives to purchase more eco-friendly cars, only offers a limited source of alternative fuel vehicles.