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Some drivers and operators of specific vehicles may not need to pay to drive in the government mandated Portsmouth Clean Air Zone (CAZ) when it launches in November 2021, once details are confirmed at a Full Cabinet meeting.

Portsmouth City Council will discuss a full list of exemptions for local vehicle drivers and operators who would normally be charged to drive in the CAZ at the cabinet meeting taking place on Tuesday 22 June. These proposed exemptions are being considered following requests from members of the public.

Cabinet members will also discuss offering exemptions to other vehicle types and circumstances. A ‘stop-gap’ exemption will be considered to help people who have applied for funding to replace or upgrade their vehicle, but for reasons outside of their control are unable to get a compliant vehicle before the launch of the CAZ.

Emergency rail replacement buses and coaches may be offered an exemption for those required at short notice, such as when a train breaks down. Horse transporters that are classified as HGVs may also be offered up to 10 trips a year through the zone without paying, allowing horse owners on the Isle of Wight access to mainland specialist animal hospitals without having to pay the charge.

It will also be suggested that 12 domestic refuse collection vehicles within the zone will be granted a two year exemption from paying the charge. This is on the condition that they are run using hydro treated vegetable oil as fuel, therefore reducing their emissions. The fleet is due for renewal in October 2023, and it will be recommended that electric vehicles are procured and prioritised for use in the zone if these are selected.

Drivers and operators of vehicles eligible for a local exemption will need to apply for their vehicles. This application form will be launched in July 2021, and can be accessed at www.cleanerairportsmouth.co.uk.

As part of the application process people will need to show evidence, such as licence documents and photographs of the vehicle being applied for. Anyone who successfully receives an exemption will not be charged to enter the Portsmouth CAZ for the time period listed on the website.

If anyone needs assistance with the application, Portsmouth City Council has appointed a dedicated team of engagement officers to help affected drivers and business owners with applications for grants, as well as answer any queries they may have. Each officer has responsibility for a specific group of affected drivers – taxi and private hire vehicle operators, HGV operators and bus or coach operators. Please call the team for support with applications at 023 9283 4593, or email CAZHelpDesk@portsmouthcc.gov.uk to arrange for one of the officers to visit you.

The City Council’s Cabinet has already agreed to grant an exemption to Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles that are classified as Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) travelling in the Portsmouth CAZ for the first six months after it launches, and school and community transport will be exempt for two years after the CAZ launches. The council requested additional funds from the government to support WAVs, due to the important role that these vehicles play in providing mobility services for disabled people in Portsmouth.

Further local exemptions were discussed at previous cabinet meetings for vehicles like emergency service vehicles and specialist HGVs. Full details of these exemptions are available on www.cleanerairportsmouth.co.uk.

Cllr Dave Ashmore, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment, said “It’s important that we discuss any possible exemptions from the government imposed Clean Air Zone charge at Cabinet. We’ve requested more funds from government for wheelchair accessible vehicles, appointed an engagement officer to support each affected group and have considered the importance of vital services in Portsmouth.”

“For anyone who is concerned whether they’ll be charged to drive in the zone, we encourage you to check use the vehicle checker on our website. If this confirms you’ll be charged, you may be able to access funding to help you upgrade your vehicle to a cleaner, greener one.”

To apply for an exemption, and for more information about the Clean Air Zone and other air quality improvement measures in Portsmouth, visit www.cleanerairportsmouth.co.uk.