Two of the UK’s best known cities are pushing forward with radical places to improve air quality that will see the nation’s first Zero Emission Zone launched in one location and a complete ban on “all non-essential private car journeys” in another.

The measures underline the radical thinking of local councils and the extent to which they are prepared to go to help the Government meet its air quality targets and compel fleets and consumers to transition to zero emission vehicles and alternative meets of travel.

Only electric and hydrogen vehicles would be allowed free-entry on to five Oxford city centre streets from December 2020 during the hours of 7am-7pm if the plans are approved. Charge levels for non-compliant vehicles – cars, vans, HGVs and mopeds/motorcycles – of £10 per day is suggested rising to £20 per day in December 2024.

Meanwhile, York could become the first city in the UK to ban cars from its centre by 2023. However, it has said that it would work with businesses to make sure deliveries continued and companies were not negatively impacted by the changes. The authority is to spend the next 12 months developing the initiative.

City of York Council’s moves to improve air quality go further than any city to date including Bristol, which, among other measures, plans to ban all privately owned diesel cars from a section of the city centre from March 2021 if the measure is given Government approval.

Meanwhile, Oxford City Council and Oxford County Council has proposed that businesses registered in the Zero Emission Zone will be exempt from any charges until December 2024, followed by a 50% discount until December 2030 when a £10 per day charge would be levied.

However, the authorities are proposing to extend the Zero Emission Zone to cover the rest of the city centre in 2021/22. Access would be free of charge for zero emission vehicles with discounted charges for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards (Euro6/VI for diesel vehicles/Euro 4 for petrol vehicles). Greater detail around the implementation of the extended Zone and how it would work is subject to further technical work, and consultation in 2020.