Trade associations have attacked the government’s air quality plan, published last week, for offering nothing new.

The government published its air quality plan on Friday (5 May) after being forced to by the High Court. It had sought to delay publication until after next month’s general election.

Rather than publish details of the action it will take to tackle the UK’s illegal emission, which could see a series of clean air zones in cites across the UK, it instead launched a consultation, which will run until 15 June.

A “final” air quality plan is promised no later than the 31 July.

However, the FTA said the plan “failed to give any clarity or certainty over what will happen”.

It reiterated the prediction that the UK’s previously proposed five clean air zones (CAZ) will likely be significantly increased under any final plan, perhaps as high as 38.

“Truck and van users will be furious when they see how the government is targeting commercial vehicles in its proposals. The latest generation of HGVs are the cleanest vehicles on the road but also the most expensive.

“The real problem is 12 million diesel cars yet there is nothing in the consultation to support commercial vehicle users through these changes. This is another example of politics getting in the way of progress,” said Christopher Snelling, head of national & regional policy at the FTA.

Although the government has floated the idea of non-charging CAZs in the latest plan, many councils such as Southampton seem likely to levy a penalty for vehicles that don’t make the requirements, likely to be Euro-6 in the worst affected areas.

This, the FTA pointed out means vans older than just two-and-a-half years, as well as lorries older than five years, will be charged a fee every day for entering a CAZ.

“At a time when British businesses, particularly sole traders and SMEs, are under intense financial pressure, a clean air plan that will penalise vital logistics operators and prevent them from reaching customers in our towns and cities would be a massive blow,” Snelling added.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said of the plan: “There is still a failure to commit to tackle the local congestion and traffic management issues that underpin the problem locally.

“Local authorities that have been given the responsibility to implement this, they need to focus on hot spots, especially where buses and taxis get stuck in jams.”