SPORTS clubs, churches and voluntary groups face a £100 a day bill for driving older minibuses anywhere in Greater London from next week when tough new emission standards come into force throughout the capital.
Owners of horseboxes, motor caravans, removal lorries and “white van man” will also be hit by the changes which will apply to commercial vehicles registered before October 2006 reports the Daily Telegraph.
They will have to fit filters costing between £1,800 and £3,500 as well as undergoing a £32 annual inspection by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to avoid paying the charge.
The low emission zone will be enforced by Automatic Numberplate Recognition cameras covering the whole of Greater London, from Heathrow in the west to Romford in the east as well as Enfield in the north to Biggin Hill in the south
The cameras will enable to Transport for London to identify the vehicles and, by cross checking with the VOSA database, confirm whether a filter has been fitted. Failure to pay the daily charge will trigger a £500 fine.
Operators of lorries, large horseboxes, coaches and buses which have been obliged to comply with emissions standards since 2001 will also face tougher rules as a result of the changes.
The purpose of the low emission zone is to improve air quality within the 680 square miles of Greater London.
But while it is supported by environmentalists, the extent of the zone, the range of vehicles involved and the draconian penalties have caused widespread concern among voluntary groups and small businesses.
Many church groups and sports clubs rely on minibuses, such as the London Football Association.
“Transport is already one of the greatest obstacles to participation particularly in London and the low emission law will create an even bigger challenge,” a spokesman said.
“We are working hard with teams and leagues across London to try and find ways around this, but in the current economic climate this is and will prove to be a massive struggle.”
Matthew Jaffa, senior development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, warned the changes will have a huge impact.
“Some of our members are still unsure of the changes. Many feel that their vehicles do comply with the standards but are still being told to retrofit the filters.
“It will also affect small businesses in Kent and Essex. Many have said that they will no longer be able to service London.
“In the year of the Olympics London is supposed to be open for businesses, but the opposite seems to be the case.”
Showjumpers who have already been hit by the restrictions placed on larger horseboxes in 2001, fear that the new tighter restrictions could do huge damage to the sport in London.
“Aside from having to sell our horsebox, we have been affected by the LEZ in that people have been unable to bring their horses to us for lecture demonstrations, competitions and events simply because of the age of their horsebox,” said Yvonne Segen of the London Equestrian centre.
Similar anger was voiced by the Caravan Club because the owners of motor caravans will also face a huge bill every time they take their vehicle onto the road.
“We have lobbied long and hard to impress upon Transport for London and the Mayor’s Office that the inclusion of motorcaravans in the LEZ is unfair, as affected vehicles are not significant contributors to air quality deterioration,” a spokesman said.
“Club members that are within the Zone face costly options to replace or modify their vehicles, or pay for storage outside of the LEZ at significant cost and inconvenience.”
Even a leading green campaigner, Stephen Joseph. Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport believed the introduction of the scheme had been poorly planned.
“I think for a long time the Government and the Greater London Authority were in denial about the seriousness of the problem and the need to meet these standards,”
“As a result we are now seeing panic measures that are going to hit a lot of people with very little notice for them to deal with the problem.”
But Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s Director for the Environment, defended the zone.
“The Mayor wants to deliver cleaner air for London to tackle the legacy he inherited, which poses a serious health threat to many especially the most vulnerable in our city,” he said.
“The changes to the Low Emission Zone standards will broadly double the impact of the existing scheme. They will be coupled with an unprecedented wider package of measures set to be implemented at this time to improve the capital’s air quality.
“In a historic year for this city, when the eye’s of the world are focused on London, it is right that we are demanding the highest environmental standards and a higher quality of life for Londoners.”
In a small concession Transport for London said it would not penalise drivers of vehicles brought into the scheme if they could prove that they had ordered the necessary filtering equipment before Jan 3.