Leader of the Basildon Council Councillor Gavin Callaghan has written to Rebecca Pow MP, Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ask again that she remove the threat of a damaging Charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) being introduced in Basildon.

The new request comes as Basildon businesses struggle to survive through the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I strongly urge you to remove the threat of an additional form of taxation on our businesses who are already at breaking point due to the crisis, at the earliest possible opportunity," Councillor Callaghan writes.

Councillor Callaghan points to good progress that continues to be made in exploring options for an engineering solution to play a part in securing the necessary air quality improvements alongside a range of complementary measures. "I believe that these can be introduced sooner than it will be practical to bring in a charging CAZ, especially considering the impact of the Covid lockdown" he says.

"I am imploring the government to formally announce the relaxation of its pursuit of a disproportionate 'silver bullet' solution to deal with the discrete area of exceedance on East Mayne in favour of a targeted, more nuanced and less punitive approach."

Read the full letter below:

Dear Minister,

Removal of the threat of a Charging Clean Air Zone for Basildon

I write to you following our latest meeting at Parliament on 3rd March 2020 and the subsequent COVID19 crisis, to repeat the case once more for your office to remove the threat of a damaging Charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) being introduced in Basildon.

We find ourselves in unprecedented times due to the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, with significant economic uncertainty and the fate of many businesses and their employees hanging in the balance. As you are aware from our previous meetings prior to COVID I had very significant concerns about the impact of a Charging Clean Air Zone on the SMEs of Basildon. Post-COVID those concerns are even more acute.

The speed limit change on the A127 is already in effect and there have been many fewer vehicle movements in and around Basildon's Enterprise Zone in the past six weeks. We are going to see a sustained reduction in private leisure and commuter journeys following the Prime Minister's address on 10th May.

Whilst it will take some time - perhaps a couple of years - to discover the new 'business as usual' models for those businesses within the Enterprise Zone that do survive this period, it is clear that those that do remain will be in a perilous financial position, fighting to survive and simply unable to afford to continue to operate should charges be introduced to enter the area in which they operate.

This is a position which has already been accepted in places such as Birmingham and Leeds where the introduction of a charging CAZ has been deferred; Greater Manchester has postponed consultation on their Clean Air Plan indefinitely, and also; Scotland where plans for Low Emission Zones in several cities are no longer considered practicable by the Scottish Government. I understand that DEFRA is also looking into how the impact of COVID19 is appropriately accounted for in relation to air quality which brings further uncertainties to the way forward.

As your staff in the Joint Air Quality Unit can attest, good progress continues to be made in exploring options for an engineering solution to play a part in securing the necessary air quality improvements alongside a range of complementary measures. I believe that these can be introduced sooner than it will be practical to bring in a charging CAZ, especially considering the impact of the COVID lockdown.

Therefore, I am imploring the government to formally announce the relaxation of its pursuit of a disproportionate 'silver bullet' solution to deal with the discrete area of exceedance on East Mayne in favour of a targeted, more nuanced and less punitive approach. I strongly urge you to remove the threat of an additional form of taxation on our businesses who are already at breaking point due to the crisis, at the earliest possible opportunity.

Despite the court rulings that have been handed down against your government, the economic damage and the new context we find ourselves operating within, has to be acknowledged otherwise you will be sounding the death knell to the economic vibrancy of the area and, indeed, the region with the resultant job losses and downturn in long term sustainability.

We are evaluating our options for submitting bids on subjects such as cycleway improvements, e-cargo bike schemes and e-scooter trials and trust we can rely upon your support for those that we take forward. Our work with the National Infrastructure Commission on cycle and walking pathways has been recently acknowledged by HM Treasury also. We see that these will have a significant positive impact on our local area, not only in improving air quality, but sustainable active travel which of course brings its own benefits. We are also continuing to deliver improvements as a result of the very positive working relationships we have with our larger employers.

I look forward to receiving a letter of reassurance from you in due course, for the sake of our businesses, jobs and our entire region.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Gavin Callaghan, Leader of Basildon Council

ENDS


Published on Tuesday 19 May 2020