Ulez protest featuring tractors and three-wheel car brings traffic to standstill

The rally in Orpington was targeted at the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone to all parts of London.

Jacob Phillips
Saturday 19 August 2023 16:57 BST
People take part in a protest against the proposed ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) expansion in Orpington (PA)
People take part in a protest against the proposed ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) expansion in Orpington (PA) (PA Wire)

Protesters have brought traffic to a standstill at the edge of London to fight against plans to extend the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez), 10 days before the zone is set to cover the entire city.

Tractors, a taxi and a three-wheel car were seen spiralling around a roundabout at Orpington War Memorial, south east London, while protesters shouted into megaphones and blew whistles.

The Ulez expansion will see drivers in outer London pay a £12.50 daily fee from August 29 if their vehicles do not meet required emissions standards.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month urged London Mayor Sadiq Khan to “think twice” about Ulez expansion, while on Monday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested cities should look at other options for tackling air pollution.

Mr Khan has previously admitted his decision to expand the Ulez was “very difficult” but insisted it would “see five million more Londoners being able to breathe cleaner air”.

Orpington locals Alex Hart, 65, and his wife Cheryl Hart, 61, were among protesters on the edge of London.

The pair are worried they could have to spend up to £40,000 to replace their car.

Mr Hart said: “I have never protested about anything until this. I have got a car which is a Volvo C30. It’s diesel because I was told by my Government that diesel was the environmentally friendly thing to do. I now have to get rid of it.

“It’s a 2010 car but it has been regularly serviced and looked after. We go on journeys to see my children in Cornwall, we have recently been to Suffolk. It’s great but now Mayor Khan is telling me to get rid of it.

“We will be without a car soon or having to pay a tax which is totally unjust.”

Michael Hughes-Nurse was also at the protest. The 88-year-old has to regularly use his 23-year-old Rover as his wife Sheena is arthritic.

Mr Hughes-Nurse told the PA news agency: “She cannot walk more than 10 yards now. She is waiting for a new knee.

“I cannot afford to change our car. It is in very good condition. Our car cost us about £21,000 with all the extras in 2000.

“The car is in immaculate condition for the year. (The Ulez expansion) will hit a lot of commercial people, people with vans.

“With the cost-of-living crisis, electricity prices, food prices, everything has gone up. This will hit a lot of people.”

The Bromley resident is hoping to get a disabled permit but is worried that he will have to replace his car otherwise.

Beckenham resident Angela Allen, 60, was also at the protest. She said: “I have got a perfectly good, well looked after BMW with low mileage.

“It’s diesel, which they told me to buy, it is 18 years old. Why should I get rid of it? There is nothing wrong with it.”

John Mulholland, 58, told PA he is worried that his vehicle will become non-compliant if the Ulez policy is expanded further.

The protester said: “It’s a money grab. I think this is the thin end of a big wedge, because it will not stop with Ulez.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said the decision to expand the Ulez zone was “not an easy one for the mayor to make, but necessary to tackle air pollution and the climate crisis”.

They added: “Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to toxic air, children are growing up with stunted lungs and thousands of people in our city are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.

“More than nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London are already compliant and will not have to pay the charge. For those with a non-compliant vehicle, the mayor has announced a major expansion to his scrappage scheme from Monday, making it available to every single Londoner impacted by Ulez.

“Ulez has already been proven to work – reducing toxic air in central London by nearly half. It is projected that Ulez will not raise any revenue within a few years as more vehicles become compliant. In the meantime, all net revenue will be reinvested back into public transport, including the expansion of bus routes in outer London.”

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