I am responding to the consultation about the proposals to create a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Posted by Mike on 15th May 2019 at 11:50AM
Communication about this has been very poor and it has been very difficult to find information about it on the City Council’s website. It’s only due to the helpful advice from two North Jesmond Councillors that I have been able to find out more, and respond properly to the Consultation. Little wonder if response has been poor which, of course, plays into the hands of the proponents of the scheme who, no doubt, aim to do what they can to force it through undemocratically.
Firstly, I am 72-year old pensioner living in Jesmond and rely heavily on my car to travel around Newcastle (subject to what I will say below). Because of my age, I am unable to cycle or walk long distances. The Metro is the saving grace for Jesmond and I invariably use it, when I can, to travel into the City, Central Station, Gateshead or further afield on the Metro System. The Bus service in Jesmond is appalling with only one bus route – 33 – running only twice an hour.
Furthermore, under the current proposals for a CAZ a simple journey by car to the RVI or Freeman hospitals from Jesmond to receive treatment, when health issues mean that public transport may not be an option, will be impossible without incurring a congestion charge – presumably both there and back.
The proposed boundaries for the CAZ mean that if I wish to leave Jesmond by car in any direction, South, East, West or North, it appears from these proposals that I will be effectively ‘trapped’ in Jesmond and forced to pay a congestion charge twice for every journey, both to and from my home, which means that for journeys into Durham, Northumberland or wider afield that are not readily accessible for a pensioner by public transport and certainly not by bicycle or walking, I will be fined for living in Jesmond. This is grossly discriminatory and unfair.
I acquired a diesel car after I retired in 2012 based on the advice from the then Government that diesel cars were the most environmentally friendly and economic solution. I bought this car with the intention of looking after it well and keeping it for several years as I anticipated driving fairly low annual mileages. I am now facing the prospect of being penalised for that decision through no fault of my own and, as a pensioner, can neither afford to buy a replacement vehicle nor should I be expected to as it is still running well and is serviced regularly, attaining the appropriate emissions standards. As an owner of a diesel vehicle, I could be penalised further as it will be unlikely that I will be able to sell it for a reasonable price. An electric vehicle is not an option as, on the few occasions when I do travel longer distances to visit family etc., they are out of range of current electric vehicles.
I understand the reasons for cleaner air and support some initiatives to achieve it, for the benefit of our children and their children. That is not, however, just cause for penalising residents in our City simply because of age or other infirmity or where they live, whilst alternative options for day-to-day travel are simply unavailable or inadequate.
Presumably some form of exemption from the congestion charge will be applicable to residents within the CAZ, for example in High West Jesmond or parts of Gosforth. At the very least, the same sort of exemption must apply to Jesmond, simply because it will be impossible to leave without being fined by having to pay the charge. Alternatively, Jesmond should be included within the CAZ. There are good reasons for that as Osborne Road is becoming a very busy thoroughfare with air quality in the surrounding area being adversely affected. That would become even worse if harebrained ideas like the discredited Blue House Roundabout scheme were to be resurrected, forcing even more vehicles on to Osborne Road.