Protesters call for rethink on expansion of Ulez scheme

Demonstrators in south London have demanded a delay or stoppage of the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez).

Car horns hooted in response to the Beep For Freedom banners that were held by members of a cheering and whistling crowd gathered at the junction outside Tooting Broadway station on Saturday.

Among those who oppose the scheme, which is being brought in by London mayor Sadiq Khan, was retired financial planner Warren Stephens, 50, who suggested it is “all about money and control”.

Mr Stephens, whose car is Ulez compliant, said: “It is saying you are ‘OK to drive your polluting car if you give me £12.50’.

“It is all about money, otherwise they would ban petrol and polluting cars.”

Ultra Low Emission Zone
A map posted on the Transport for London website of the expanded Ulez zone in Chessington (Tfl/PA)

Chants of “Get Khan Out” also rang out among a crowd largely drawn from parts of London and the south who are now set to be affected when the new clean air zone is introduced.

From Tuesday, the Ulez scheme will be expanded to include the whole of the capital, making it the world’s largest pollution charging area.

People who drive in the zone in a vehicle that does not meet minimum emissions standards are required to pay a £12.50 daily fee or risk a £180 fine, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.

A £160 million scheme run by Transport for London (TfL) enables residents, small businesses, sole traders and charities scrapping non-compliant cars to claim grants.

Mr Khan has previously said that clean air is “a human right, not a privilege” and he is “listening” to people’s concerns about the scheme.

Ulez expansion
Piers Corbyn raises his hand in the style of 70’s fictional TV character Wolfie Smith from Citizen Smith outside Tooting Broadway Tube station (Jeff Moore/PA)

On Saturday the GMB Union called on Mr Khan to scrap Ulez expansion.

GMB London regional organiser Trevlyn McLeod told LBC: “Listen to the people, Mr Khan, listen to the people who are going to suffer, listen to the people who can’t afford now to go to work or never mind put food on the table”

“We all want clean air for our children and generations, but you’ve gone in too far, too deep and it’s going to cost people’s lives and livelihoods.”

“People are angry, people are absolutely angry, and so are our members who can’t afford £12.50 a day or to buy a new car.

“Many workers will absolutely be affected.”

Also at the south London demonstration Pete Huntingford, 57, a DJ and scrap metal dealer from Mitcham, said he was “annoyed” about the Ulez scheme because he fears it could hurt people’s working and social lives.

He said: “It will mean I will not be able to go to work in certain areas, or go shopping where I want to, or to take my kids to certain areas.

“It will mean I am just being pushed out of the areas that I want to be.”

Ulez expansion
Protesters voice their objections to Ulez (Jeff Moore/PA)

An airport worker, who only gave his name as Nick B, joined the demonstration after seeing a Ulez camera go up in his street in Selsdon, a minute’s drive from the restriction zone.

The 42-year-old shift worker said: “Just seeing it there, (made me feel) it is invasive.

“My car is Ulez-compliant but a lot of my neighbours cars are non-compliant.

“You drive for your shopping to the nearest supermarket and to go about 150m down the road will now cost £12.50.

“It is the same as if you have driven from one side of London to the other and it makes no sense.”

He added: “Being a shift worker, I have to drive to get to work at 3am or 4am.”

He said that Ulez is being introduced “on the back” of a transport system in his local area which needs improvement.

Ulez expansion
A protester urges motorists to signal their support (Jeff Moore/PA)

Sharon Garton, 61, a retired communications officer of Wallington, said: “Our main car is compliant and we don’t use it very often but we have a camper van which isn’t compliant.

“So every time we leave the zone we will have to spend £12.50 to go and park up in a field.

“We are hiking and travelling locally to put money into small communities and we are penalised by not flying.

“I just think they are targeting the wrong group (of people).”

A spokesman for the London mayor said: “The mayor has always been clear that the decision to expand the Ulez was a very difficult one, but he is not prepared to stand by while around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to air pollution.”