Farmers have joined the protest against Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) outwards in a move that could hit contractors, college students and equestrian enthusiasts hard.
Tractors and other farm vehicles were part of a protest at Orpington War Memorial that attracted support from a crowd estimated by organiser Ronnie Townsend to be around 500 strong.
The mayor’s plans, although currently facing a judicial review following a High Court decision in April, would see drivers of vehicles failing to meet strict emission standards entering the much-larger new ULEZ zone being charged £12.50 a day for the privilege.
While Transport for London has calculated that 90% of vehicles on the roads meet the required standards, campaigners point out that those who don’t are likely to be the less well-off, including students driving older cars because of the lower insurance costs.
The new rules, due to be introduced at the end of August unless the judicial review being brought by Surrey County Council and the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Bexley, Bromley and Harrow changes the plans, will also affect farmers driving older or non-compliant tractors and other machinery.
David Gunn, a contractor based in Chelsfield on the proposed new ULEZ border, often drives two different farm vehicles through the zone so could end up paying the charge two or even three times a day.
“I might be baling in the morning and then go out with a sprayer in the afternoon,” he explained. “I will have to try to pass those costs on, so this charge will hit everyone, including people driving compliant cars. Farmers also take part in charity runs driving vintage tractors – this is going to hit those events hard, too.
“We organised the protest to make people aware of what is around the corner as it seems like a lot of people still don’t know what’s about to be introduced. Contractors like me are going to be charged to go to work, possibly several times a day.”
Organiser Ronnie, a horse owner, lives in Cudham and gets hay and straw delivered from outside the ULEZ in Kent. “Everything will go up as we will suddenly find ourselves inside the zone,” she pointed out. “Farmers and horse owners tend to drive old Land Rovers and pickups and will be badly affected, but many of them don’t seem to have heard about the plans.
“My car is a year too old to meet the emissions standards so I will be charged to go to work, but I am also very alarmed about the impact on young people. I work at Hadlow College and we have students coming in from Bromley and Bexley in older cars that won’t meet the regulations. They really won’t be able to stump up an extra £12.50 a day, particularly in this financial climate.
“It’s not as though we have the options that the mayor and his pals have in London. Our nearest tube station is Greenwich and the bus service is extremely limited, so we can’t just switch to public transport.”