Rises in Low Emission Zone charges could hit Wimbledon drivers hard


Wimbledon drivers could face fines of £100 per day under new Low Emission Zone regulations.


By Alex Fitch, Holly Christodoulou, Christian Crowther-Smith, Emily Ansell, Sarah Ingrams 

Wimbledon drivers could face fines of £100 per day under new Low Emission Zone regulations.

Vans, minibuses and specialist diesel vehicles will feel the force of stricter pollution laws coming into effect on January 3. 

Vehicles made before 2002 will not meet with new European clean-air standards.

These include some 4x4s and caravans which must be fitted with a filter to reduce the amount of harmful exhaust fumes. 

A filter costs £1,500-£2,000 to fit, often outweighing the value of the vehicles themselves. 

Paul John Dulake, owner of Eagle Autos, South Wimbledon, is already feeling the effects of the new regulations. 

“It’s totally out of all context – 76,000 vehicles will be out of compliance,” he said.

“They’re trying to get rid of the old stuff running around but it doesn’t give any leeway to people who look after their vehicles.” 

Mr Dulake said it cost £5,500 to refit his garage’s vehicles. He also had to replace his own car.

“I owned a new, regularly-serviced vehicle. People thought it was brand new. I had to get rid of it because it was out of compliance or I would have had to pay £100 a day to keep it.” 

The high cost also affects those who rely on their transport for income.

Wimbledon van driver, Bilal Abood, said: “I feel short changed by the government. They should offer an incentive to small businesses.  

“How can I afford it when I’m struggling to make a living?”

Originally introduced in 2008, the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) encourages the heaviest polluting vehicles driving in Greater London to become cleaner. 

Lorries, buses and coaches, already affected by 2011 regulations, will face even tougher standards.

Nick Fairholme, Director of Congestion Charging and Traffic Enforcement, said: “Poor air quality poses a serious health threat to Londoners, especially the young and old. It is a key aim of the Mayor to deliver cleaner air for London.

“Most vehicles affected by these changes are already compliant but we are doing our utmost to help people who are affected. We recognise these are difficult economic times and an extra 15 months has already been given for owners of vans and minibuses to allow people to prepare.

“There are a number of options that can be taken, ranging from fitting filters on exisiting vehicles through to purchasing a cleaner second hand vehicle.

“The Mayor has secured deals from a number of major manufacturers to assist those choosing to buy a new vehicle.

“The LEZ has been shown to deliver real improvements in air quality and the new standards in 2012 are vital in our efforts to tackle air pollution.”

However, an employee of Mr Clutch Autocentre, Merton Road, does not believe the scheme will succeed. He said: “It’s a money-making machine and I don’t think it’ll catch on.” 

But Richard Davis, Lib Dem London Assembly Candidate for Merton and Wandsworth, said: “The LEZ could make a difference but it doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s essentially a sticky plaster. More needs to be done when we’re not meeting European targets. It’s an invisible health risk.” 

He said reducing the speed limit to 20mph would be a more effective solution to pollution problems. 

Merton Park Ward Independent Councillor, John Sargeant, added: “We have to do everything we can to do our bit.”

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