Basildon councillors have sent out what Council Leader Gavin Callaghan called: "A clear, strong and decisive message to the Government - Basildon Council will not accept a congestion charge, so think again."

At an extraordinary council meeting held on Thursday 27 June, councillors voted 39 in favour, with just one abstention, for a motion that committed it to immediate action to implement a 50mph zone on the Basildon stretch of the A127, establishing a Clean Air Zone and to support businesses to move to sustainable transport solutions for the future.

The meeting had been called in response to a Ministerial Direction issued by Environment Minister Therese Coffey on 18 June 2019 directing Basildon Council and Essex County Council to complete additional modelling on measures that will improve air quality on the A127 and roads next to it by 31 July 2019 and to submit a full business case on the speed limit measure by 25 October 2019. The Minister warned that failure to comply with the direction by the deadlines set out could lead to the imposition of a charging Clean Air Zone.

Council made it clear that it believes the introduction of a charging zone would be incredibly detrimental to the borough's businesses and the local economy, that the introduction of a charging zone would put incredible pressure on the Basildon stretch of the A13.

Councillor Callaghan said: "I am absolutely committed to improving the environment in which our residents live. This council will act quickly to do what is in our power, and within our influence, to improve our air quality, reducing emissions and bringing them within legal limits. We reject utterly the notion that a charging zone is an appropriate solution. We want to work with our businesses, not against them."

The council will bring forward implementation of a speed reduction, from 70mph to 50mph, on the A127 to 31 March 2020, with statutory consultation on the measure in the summer of 2019.

The council will seeking immediate assurances from Essex County Council, who as Highways Authority have lead responsibility for traffic management, that their contractor, Jacobs, will meet the Government deadlines and will set up a group to monitor progress.

Council accepted an amendment by opposition leader that the council convene a meeting of the Council Leader, the Leader of the Conservative Group and the Leader of Essex County Council with Environment Minister Therese Coffey to confirm Council's resolution and to agree a conjoined approach and timetable.

The council has also set up an email address, cleanair@basildon.gov.uk, for businesses to use to send questions and comments about the Ministerial Direction so the council can deal with queries effectively and efficiently.

Basildon Council will also continue its work to develop a range of measures to help businesses, particular small and medium-sized companies, to speed up progress to switch to cleaner vehicles and support their workforce to make more use of public transport.

Ends.

Background notes:

A first Ministerial Direction was issued in 2017 to Basildon Council in relation to high levels of roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on identified short stretches of the A127, running through the Fortune Of War and Laindon. The council has been working with Essex County Council and their contractor, Jacobs, to prepare a joint response.

In the course of this work, the councils identified levels of NO2 exceeding guidelines on parts of the business area to the south of the A127 at East Mayne and Upper Mayne by Noak Bridge.In March 2019, Basildon Council announced proposals to introduce a non-charging Clean Air Zone in this area.

An outline business case was submitted to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in May 2019.

Published on Friday 28 June 2019.