ULEZ-style charges have not been completely ruled out in Wokingham borough – despite attempts to get the council to promise not to bring them in at all.

Wokingham Borough Council has said it is “committed not to introduce ULEZ charges” – but said it could reconsider this if the air quality in any area needs improvement on health grounds.

ULEZ – which stands for ultra-low emission zone – is a scheme introduced in London that means drivers whose cars don’t meet emissions standards must pay a charge.

Supporters of such schemes say they are necessary to reduce dangerous levels of pollution in the air. But opponents say they penalise people who have no choice but to drive.

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Conservative opposition councillors proposed that Wokingham Borough Council committed not to introduce ULEZ charges in the borough, at a meeting on Thursday, November 16.

Conservative councillor Pauline Helliar-Symons said ULEZ is a 'great idea in principle'. But she added: “ULEZ as a cure will have unintended consequences which will be worse than the malady.

“For many people their car is their only option and if we were to impose ULEZ it would put an additional strain on people’s finances.”

She added: “There are already a number of things that are discouraging people from coming into our towns such as the loss of banks. And we need to commit to doing nothing that would damage our town centres even more.”

But Labour councillor Andy Croy suggested a change to the proposal. This would still commit to ruling out ULEZ – but the council “would of course reconsider” if air quality in an area needed to improved for the sake of public health.

He was backed by Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Fishwick, who is responsible for roads at Wokingham Borough Council.

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Councillor Croy said: “No councillor in this room should be voting in support of harmful emissions, which is what the original motion would have implied. No councillor in this room should be voting for worse health outcomes for our residents.”

He added: “The health impacts of dirty air have mostly fallen on the poor and the medically vulnerable.

“It needs to be clear that this council – all of us here – will always put the health of our residents first.”

Conservative councillors agreed to back councillor Croy’s change, meaning the commitment passed unanimously.

The full agreement says: “While recognising concerns about clean air and congestion, there has to be a balance with supporting the local economy. Therefore this Council is committed not to introduce ULEZ charges in any part of the Borough of Wokingham.

“But if the quality of air in an area were to give rise to a health requirement to improve air quality, council would of course reconsider its position.”