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Oxford mitigates impact of zero emission zone plans

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have published updated proposals for a Zero Emission Zone in the city centre, which will see private vehicles no longer impacted by the plans.

Outlined in 2017, the Zero Emission Zone originally set out a specific area of the centre where cars, taxis, LCVs and buses wouldn’t be able to go at any time without fully electric, extended-range electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrains from 2020. The plan was to widen the boundary in 2025 and 2030, in line with growing electric ranges, before encompassing HGVs from 2035.

However, following consultation, the new plans no longer include private vehicles from the outset. Instead, from 2020, under the proposals, all non-zero emission vehicles could be banned during certain hours from parking and loading on public highway in an inner zone, while in a larger zone the requirement will be Euro 6 for buses. Citywide taxi emissions standards will apply from 2020, with increasingly improving standards to 2025.

The vision towards zero emissions sees an acceleration from 2022 to 2035, when the councils are considering further possible measures for non-zero and high emission vehicles to encourage a faster conversion towards low emission and zero emission vehicles. These ideas, like the development of the first stage of ZEZ will be thoroughly researched, tested and consulted on with businesses and residents.

This month will see City councillors take the first steps by deciding on the Hackney carriage licensing changes, which would see, as part of a phased approach, the introduction of zero-emission capable hackney carriage taxis in the city centre by 2022.

Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone proposal:


Restrictions in the Red Zone requiring vehicles to be zero-emission capable to be permitted to park or load on street at certain times .

The city centre Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will be extended, across the Green Zone, to require local buses to be Euro 6 for nitrogen dioxide. This could be enforced through bus operator licensing.

Hackney carriage taxi drivers required to have taxis of at least Euro 4 standard to renew their licence; and Euro 4, Euro 6 or zero-emission capable to receive a new licence. This will be enforced through taxi operator licensing.


The councils are considering measures for non-local buses, vans and lorries to encourage adoption of zero-emission vehicles or place restrictions on non-zero emission vehicles entering the Green Zone.

Hackney carriage taxi drivers will be required to have at least Euro 4 standard to renew their licence, and zero-emission capable vehicles to receive a new licence.

By 2025          

The councils are considering extending the emission-based measures within the Green Zone to include cars.


Hackney carriage taxi drivers will be required to have zero-emission capable vehicles to renew their licence or receive a new licence.


The councils are considering restricting all non-zero emission capable vehicles – including all buses, vans, lorries and cars – from entering the Green Zone.This phased approach follows extensive consultation with city centre businesses, Covered Market traders, bus companies, taxi drivers and operators, University of Oxford colleges, environment groups, groups representing people with disabilities, and other stakeholders.

A final decision on the introduction of the ZEZ is subject to approval by councillors at both City and County councils.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council Executive Board Member for A Safer and Greener Environment, said: “Oxford’s pioneering approach to cleaning up polluted air and saving lives takes a leap forward with the development of our Zero Emission Zone. Our councils are united in the common cause of driving down toxic and harmful emissions because we care about the health of Oxfordshire and we’re listening to the staggering response to our joint public consultation.

“I’m excited by Oxford’s bold journey to zero. Our Hackney taxi fleet will be transformed from being 0% zero-emissions capable to 100% over the next five years. From next year, under the proposals, only zero-emission vehicles will be able enter the city centre to park and load when our streets will be at their busiest. And we’re considering strengthening our original plans by banning heavy goods vehicles when footfall in the city centre will be highest because they contribute nearly a fifth of harmful emissions. Oxford is proud to be leading the way to zero emissions for cities like London, Paris, and Madrid.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.