LONDON ULTRA LOW EMISSIONS ZONE – PROGRESS REPORT

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Following on from the inclusion by Transport for London (TfL) of the NAWCP as an official stakeholder for consultation on the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), the NAWCP Chairman and Secretary were invited to TfL Head Office to meet Principal Policy Advisors, Oliver Lord and Christina Calderato, to discuss NAWCP concerns regarding the proposed ULEZ.

The Chairman and Secretary met with the TfL policy advisors on Tuesday 16 September 2014 and were immediately aware of the sense of satisfaction shown by TfL that the NAWCP was taking the trouble to help them come to an understanding of the concerns of those on which the establishment of an ULEZ would impact. Similarly, pleasure was expressed to have such a receptive and professional audience to whom the NAWCP could express its views, openly and without prejudice.

TfL explained that the UK as a whole had failed in its attempt to achieve the European standard for air quality, due in the most part as a consequence of London not being expected to achieve the appropriate standard until 2025, some 15 years after the original deadline. Consequently, there is a need to move forward swiftly with the air quality improvement process by introducing a London ULEZ by 2020 and thereby meet the required air quality standard and improve the living standards for all Londoners.

TfL stated that the purpose of the ULEZ is to encourage the eventual uptake of near zero emission vehicles (vehicles EU 4(petrol) and EU6 (diesel) compliant) for travel through central London by making a zone entry charge for all non-compliant vehicles. While the full detail of the proposal has yet to be finalised and published, the plan is for the ULEZ to be implemented in 2020 and to cover the same area as the current Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ)) on a 365 day, 24/7 basis with an entry charge levied for all types of non-compliant vehicles; the rate of the charge being dependant on the type of vehicle. The full details of the proposal will be made available for public consultation in October this year.

Although TfL was not in a position to comment, the NAWCP anticipates that the London ULEZ will eventually increase to include all of Greater London and that given the success of the venture, other city and town authorities within the UK will use the London ULEZ as a model for their own similar ventures. TfL did intimate that several large conurbations had spoken to them about the possibility of introducing similar schemes but were no prepared at that time to name them.

Following TfLs briefing, the thoughts of the NAWCP were offered regarding the unique situation for the wedding car industry. NAWCP represents all businesses engaged in the wedding car industry within the UK, of which there are approximately 700. On average, each business operates 3.8 wedding cars; this equates to around 2700 vehicles of which the majority will be vintage and classic petrol powered cars registered before 2005 and diesel powered cars registered before 2014, none of which will meet the EU standards. As a consequence, the establishment of a London ULEZ could impose a significant long-term financial burden on wedding car operations because the option to re-equip with near zero emissions vehicles does not exist.

It was explained that whilst the NAWCP would wish to support proposed changes in legislation that reflect society’s developing social and environmental requirements, the NAWCP believes that such changes must be considered against the background of society’s other needs for choice and substance in life as well as for economic stability and, most importantly, the need for the preservation of long held British traditions. The opinion was offered that vintage and classic wedding cars are hired as part of the overall wedding ceremony, not just a means of travel and that it was the belief of the NAWCP that the chosen wedding car is as much part of the wedding day and as much an icon as all the other special elements and consequently, cannot be dismissed as a non-essential part of the wedding day experience.

The NAWCP stated the opinion that, where London goes today, other cities and towns within the UK will inevitably follow tomorrow. Consequently, in the years to come, the operation of vintage and classic car wedding vehicles within the entire UK that do not comply with the emerging emissions legislation will inevitably be restricted or penalised financially, which may in itself, impact on the continuation of well established traditions.

As a way forward the NAWCP offered the opinion that if air quality legislation can include from the outset some measure of flexibility with provision being made to encompass the requirement for preserving and caring for our traditions, then it may be that not all is lost. By definition, wedding cars are used far, far less than other vehicles in London and, indeed, within the UK in general, and very rarely will they be used on a daily basis. Consequently, it is arguable that their contribution to the reduction of air quality in London and other UK cities and towns is significantly less than other vehicles and insignificant when compared with commercial and industrial outlets. The NAWCP presented some statistics to TfL (determined from National Statistics Office and the government Department of Transport figures), which quite clearly illustrate that wedding car operations in London count for, on average, around 0.05% maximum of the day to day traffic flow within London; suggesting that the impact wedding cars have on the environment and air quality when compared with that of other vehicles, is miniscule.

It was mentioned that, while aware that the Mayor of London has stated quite clearly that he believes the people of London would want their air to be clean, the NAWCP believes that the people of London would also wish to retain long held British traditions associated with the wedding ceremony, the most overt of course being the provision of a special vehicle for the Bridal Party. Consequently, it would seem to the NAWCP that a balance in the requirement of Londoners, and indeed, all UK citizens, should be met as the only reasonable way forward.

In conclusion, it was stated that while the NAWCP supports the general tenant of emission control within the UK it was hoped that some provision would be made to ensure that wedding car operations would not be penalized because of the very nature of the business, thus allowing those entering the institute of marriage to continue to enjoy the long held tradition of using vintage, classic and specialist vehicles as an integral part of their wedding celebrations. The current Government supports the institution of marriage; therefore, the NAWCP would hope it will also support those traditions that embody the institution.

The TfL were very receptive of NAWCP views and opinions, taking great trouble to ensure they understood the nature of wedding car operations and the NAWCPs concerns regarding the establishment of a ULEZ and its future ramifications. The meeting concluded on the understanding that once the full details of the proposal were made available the NAWCP would engage fully in the consultation process and submit its further views to TfL at a future meeting. NAWCP Chairman and Secretary left TfL Headquarters believing that the meeting had been of huge value and significance for the NAWCP.

NAWCP – THE WAY FORWARD

Now to consider how we go forward from this position – fundamentally, it must surely be assumed that the London ULEZ will be the first of many such zones throughout the country and that the operations of vintage and classic wedding cars, whether we like it or not, will be affected in some way as a consequence. It is therefore, vitally important for all our businesses and the wedding car industry in general to stay on-board with TfL and most importantly with the air quality authorities for other cities and towns in the UK. To do this we must have a central figure in the NAWCP to co-ordinate such activity and we must have representatives in all counties who can carry forward the views and opinions of the NAWCP as the call for increased air quality and associated ULEZs grows.

Following Labours shadow environment secretary – Maria Eagle MP – announcement that national LEZs/ULEZs were to be Labour policy and included in their next Manifesto, we seem to have a huge amount of work to do shaping how wedding cars can sensibly fit into this regime. The General Election is less than 8 months away – 7th May 2015.

We therefore, once again, call for a volunteer from amongst our members to come forward to champion this aspect of the NAWCPs work, and also for volunteers from all UK counties to come forward and offer their services as Regional NAWCP representatives so that they may enter into discussions with their local authorities as we have done with the TfL. Please do take this on board because we believe it is perhaps the most serious issue our industry will be facing over the coming years. Please do contact the Chairman or the Secretary for more information.

The data we supplied to Transport for London

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