Drivers of gas guzzlers could pay to enter towns and cities across England

‘Clean air zones’ could be introduced in more towns and cities across the country in a bid to discourage high-polluting vehicles from urban areas.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has previously outlined plans to introduce clean air zones in five UK cities by 2020, following a ruling by the Supreme Court ordering it to comply with EU nitrogen dioxide limits.

These cities include Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton. London already has a low emission zone discouraging commercial vehicles, horseboxes and even some 4x4s from entering the capital. An ‘ultra low emission zone’ is expected to be introduced in the centre of London from 2020, including private cars.

But now MPs are calling for powers to introduce the zones and cut emissions to be spread across other cities in England.

The latest report from DEFRA said that, despite emissions declining significantly, there are still 40-50,000 early deaths each year in the UK because of cardiac, respiratory and other diseases linked to air pollution.

It said local councils needed more flexibility to tackle harmful emissions – and this could include charging drivers of private vehicles including cars.

Committee chairman Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “More action is needed if we are to get older, more polluting diesel vehicles off the road quickly.

“People need more of an incentive to purchase the more expensive low-emission vehicles: we want the Government to start planning now to introduce at the next Budget a scrappage scheme targeted at cars and vans ten years or more old.”

In the wake of the ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, a think-tank has previously called for the scrappage scheme to be re-introduced for diesel cars – as well as a £800 first-year tax rate for all diesels.