ANGRY activists have accused Southampton City Council of a “cop-out” after they U-turned over plans for a £100-a-day charge to enter the city.

Green groups say the council’s new Clean Air Zone plans do not tackle the issues surrounding the city’s dangerously high pollution levels.

It comes as city clean air bosses ditched plans to charge commercial vehicles, such as a HGVs, buses and taxis, up to £100 to enter Southampton.

The plan had been the council’s preferred option and that of more than half of residents who responded to the city’s biggest ever public consultation.

But on Tuesday, the council announced it would instead opt for a series of non-charging measures.


These 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.

However, the U-turn has angered green activists, who backed plans for a clean vehicle charge.

One of those, was Liz Batten from Clean Air Southampton, who wanted the council to go one step further than the original plan – and charge all vehicles entering the city.

She said: “The plans are a very distorted attempt to meet a legal requirement that doesn’t help our health.

“If you are really serious about our children’s health we have to do much more imaginative things to get around.

“But politicians really don’t want to go there because they think they will get voted out.

“These plans are missing imagination.”

Another, Southampton Green party member, Ron Meldrum, also criticised the plans.

He said: “It’s a cop-out.

“The council are trying to cover their backsides, they are not doing things to tackle the problem.


“We need stopping vehicles from coming into the city.

“Surely the goal is to make Southampton a nicer place to live, because it is a great place.”

Yesterday, Southampton City Council published its long awaited Clean Air Zone report, 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 in a number of UK cities – 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.

As well as proposals to consolidate freight, in the hope of reducing HGV trips into the city, the council also aims to introduce a new traffic regulation, aiming to ensure buses meet the highest emission standards.

New measures will be introduced in conjunction with the port, including a shore side power system, which will allow ships to turn off their engines while docked.

A new revised taxi licensing condition will also be introduced to remove the most polluting cars, while a new three month try-before-you-buy electric car scheme will be made available to cab drivers.

But the plan does not include the controversial Clean Air Zone charge, which would have seen commercial vehicle drivers pay up to £100 a day to enter the city.

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.

Perry McMillan, a taxi driver and union representative, said was pleased the council had dropped the charge plan.

Taxi driver and chair of the Southampton cab branch of Unite, Perry McMillanTaxi driver and chair of the Southampton cab branch of Unite, Perry McMillan

But Mr McMillan, who drives a hybrid-powered taxi, also urged his fellow cabbies to continue to do their bit to improve air quality in the city.

He said: “I’ve been telling our members that we need to be doing our bit to reduce pollution.

“The council has listened, but we need to still be thinking about we can do to improve air quality.”

Another to back the decision was Itchen MP Royston Smith, who called it a “victory for common sense”.

Opposition council leader, Dan Fitzhenry, a Conservative, also praised the U-turn, but criticised the Labour council for originally pursuing the plan.

The councillor leading the plans, Steve Leggett, cabinet member for green city said: "The proposed business case includes bold new actions to tackle air pollution and a comprehensive technical assessment that has shown that nitrogen dioxide pollution has been significantly reduced over the past three years."

The plans will be discussed at a meeting on January 16.