Classics in cities across the country could find themselves pushed out under new Clean Air Zone proposals.

The Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a consultation for reducing nitrogen oxide levels on Friday, May 5 in order to comply with legal challenges. According to the document, five cities have been planning Clean Air Zones since December 2015 – Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton; Greater Manchester, Bristol and South Gloucestershire have more recently secured Air Quality Grant funding to develop Clean Air Zone proposals of their own.

Planned in response to the turning political and scientific backlash against diesel, the consultation wants to get Clean Air Zones and other emissions reduction schemes underway as quickly as possible. Classics Worlds worries that pre Euro 4 standard petrol classics – anything built before the year 2000 – will be charged or banned outright from major cities unless exemptions are secured.

Unfortunately, targeted scrappage schemes and retro fitment of newer drivetrains are among the proposals (section 4.1 paragraphs 32 and 33, respectively); while the latter applies to at the moment to buses and heavy goods vehicles, retrofitted electric classic cars do exist and the companies which convert them could easily produce more to meet demand – despite objections from classic car enthusiasts like Sir Greg Knight of the All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group (APPHVG).

Many think London – stated in the consultation as having the worst air quality in the country – may be used as a model for other cities to follow. It recently rolled out a Toxicity Surcharge (or T-Charge) which left 40 year old vehicle excise duty (VED) exempt classics off the charging menu; while owners of these cars were still liable for the congestion charge, historic vehicles younger than the road fund license (RFL) will have to pay both supplements (£21.50) to enter central London.

Section 4.1 paragraph 25 of DEFRA’s proposal states that: ‘Clean Air Zone proposals are not required to include a charging zone.’ While great strides have been made to protect tax exempt classics from upcoming legislation (campaign groups, including the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs think that we’re heading towards MoT derogation for cars so aged) younger classics may well fall by the wayside.

We await responses from the FBHVC, DEFRA and yourselves – this consultation is just the start. Get your voices heard.

DEFRA wants your views on the air quality consultation – and it closes at 11.45pm on Thursday, June 15. See the air quality plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide and the air quality consultation document PDF.