PML vehicles1

The MD of a major logistics specialist based near Heathrow has hit out at London mayor Sadiq Khan's decision to widen the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ), insisting it is crippling his business.

Mike Parr, MD of family-owned business PML (Perishable Movements Ltd) based in Feltham, said the European hauliers the firm works with are refusing to come to Heathrow because of the "unacceptably high charges", making his expansion plans "untenable".

The extension of the LEZ has been in force since 1 March and includes all roads within Greater London, those at Heathrow and parts of the M1 and M4. The charges are payable 24 hours a day and range from £100 to £300 per day with penalty charges at £500 or £250 if paid within 14 days.

"Hauliers from all over the world are used to bring in cargo to PML, to be flown out of Heathrow," Parr told "Similarly, freight consignments arrive into PML from Europe – and all over the world – via Heathrow. We don’t run our fleet of vehicles to collect freight in Europe. It’s also worth noting that the airlines have long-standing contracts with key companies which are difficult to override."

In an open letter to Khan, Parr said the decision  meant it was now "mission impossible" for PML and would lead to some staff losing their jobs.

"The business will have to spend thousand of pounds in re-training new staff," he added, "and those staff that are able to move to a new location will ironically be adding to the cost of fuel emissions by generating more traffic on the roads as they are forced to make longer journeys to work.

"As a company which is involved in the transfer of perishable – mainly essential food – cargo both into and out of the UK this move is crippling our business," the letter continued. "We have daily consignments of food departing from Heathrow and coming in from Heathrow which we handle on behalf of our customers to ensure a seamless onward journey. We also receive daily consignments of European produce to our packhouse, which is then packed and loaded, ready for distribution to the UK’s major food retailers.

"While our own fleet of trucks is Euro-6 compliant, many of the European hauliers that we work with to deliver food are not and are now refusing to come to Heathrow because of the unacceptably high charges."

Parr also slammed the government's "shambolic" handling of Brexit: "We’ve had to employ teams of people to try and keep up to speed with the constant changes, which were still being modified as late as the first week of January," he said. "Despite this, we’ve managed to adapt our operations yet again and have successfully helped our clients understand the new protocols to ensure perishable food supplies successfully reach their intended destination on time.

"Two major blows to the industry which could potentially have destroyed an established British business. But we survived.

"A business that employs around 100 members of staff. A business that has invested heavily in helping the post-Brexit UK transport infrastructure by creating an approved Border Control Post and ERT (bonded warehouse) facility away from the ports at Spalding to enable the continued speedy movement of produce. A business that is expanding and generating new jobs. A business that supported UK manufacturing to the tune of £500,000 by investing in a new fleet of state-of-the-art trucks. A business that is closely aligned with Britain’s plans to ensure Heathrow can compete with other major European airports.

"And how are we repaid?

"At a time when you are trying to assert Heathrow as an equal to Paris CDG and Amsterdam in terms of airfreight the introduction of this tax has effectively made this mission impossible. And with it you have also made our plans to extend our operations in Heathrow untenable.

"So much for supporting Britain’s essential workforce."

Responding, a spokesperson for the mayor of London told “Toxic air pollution causes long-lasting harm and is a national public health crisis. In London it contributes to thousands of premature deaths every year.

“Only heavy vehicles that do not meet the emissions standards will need to pay the daily charge to drive in the area. Sadiq is proud to be a pro-business mayor, and research from the CBI has shown that cleaner air could boost the UK economy by £1.6bn per year, including almost £500m per year for the local London economy.”