Charging non-compliant HGVs £100 to enter Southampton’s clean air zone (CAZ) is excessive, according to many of the city’s residents.

The results of a consultation on the council’s CAZ proposals published this week, show that of 7,624 respondents, 1,067 (14%) said the proposed charge for HGVs was too low, 2,973 (39%) agreed it was the right amount, and most 3,583 (47%) argued the charge was too high or there should be no charge.

A majority of residents (52%) also backed the council’s support plans for non-compliant operators, compared to just 20% who disagreed and 28% who neither agreed nor disagreed.

The proposed support package includes exemptions on certain vehicles, incentives to upgrade fleets and support for hauliers promoting CAZ compliant and low emissions logistical operations.

And whilst a majority of residents support the chargeable CAZ option (56%), the consultation document noted that a striking amount of respondents (75%) believe it will have an adverse impact on small firms and sole traders.

The document notes: “This was the highest level of negative impact across all of the questions regarding impact in the questionnaire.”

Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith, slammed the consultation this week, which he said was “deliberately poorly worded to achieve the answer the council wanted. It did nothing to explain the economic impact and the damage to jobs in the city”.

He added: “I am working closely with the secretary of state and ministers to find a solution to our air quality issues that does not require this arbitrary charging scheme.”

Councillor Steve Leggett said the level of response - the highest of any consultation held in the city - highlighted residents’ concerns about air quality.

He added that the results will help the council inform its business case which will be submitted to defra for approval on 31 January next year.

See our clean air zone landing page for more on the subject.