In its ongoing campaign against the scheme, the BMF is now calling for a 12-month delay in the expansion of the ULEZ scheme in London.

The expansion of London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was announced in November 2022 and is due for implementation on 29 August. The aim of the move is to reduce pollution in the capital, where an estimated 4,000 deaths are caused by air pollution each year.

Under the scheme, a £12.50 daily charge on non-compliant vehicles across all London boroughs. The change means that anyone using a diesel vehicle registered before September 2016 or a petrol vehicle registered before January 2006 will be charged to travel almost anywhere within the M25. 

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) is calling for a 12-month delay to help businesses in the building materials supply industry reliant HGVs, trucks and vans for deliveries to prepare for the change.

The BMF has already written twice to the Mayor of London, expressing concern that neighbourhoods in the expanded ULEZ could become no-go areas for the building trade and has called for a targeted commercial vehicle scrappage scheme.

John Newcomb, BMF CEO, said: “The BMF is calling for a targeted commercial vehicle scrappage scheme and is supporting calls for a 12-month delay to the ULEZ expansion, scheduled for August.

“BMF members recognise the importance of air quality and as responsible employers our members take a number of steps to ensure fuel efficiency and the health and wellbeing of staff.

“However, we firmly believe that a 12-month delay to the start of the ULEZ expansion will allow businesses and individuals to prepare – especially in relation to the availability of compliant vehicles.”

Transport for London launched a £110 million scrappage fund in January. Applicants can receive £5,000 for scrapping a non-compliant van, and £7,500, if they replace it with an electric van.

TfL analysis showed that 51% of vans in outer London did not meet ULEZ criteria at the end of last year, when the expansion was announced. According to the BMF, this is far more than can be replaced within the current timescale. The market for second-hand commercial vehicles is not sufficiently mature to supply the number or type required.

More recent figures, however, show that nine out of 10 cars, and around eight out of 10 vans seen driving in the current zone on an average day are already compliant.

John Newcomb added: “TfL’s suggested options for ‘last mile’ deliveries - such as e-cargo bikes - may be ideal for some industries, but by the very nature of our trade, we have no choice but to use HGVs, trucks and vans to deliver our products, which is why we have long favoured a targeted scrappage scheme for commercial vehicles.”

Earlier this month, as he announced an extension of the scrappage scheme, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “The majority of vehicles in London are already ULEZ compliant and will not have to pay anything. But I completely understand the concerns of people who may not have a compliant vehicle and are worried about how they’ll make the transition.

“We already have the biggest-ever scrappage scheme in place to support Londoners on low incomes, London based micro-businesses and charities and disabled Londoners. But I’ve listened to families and small businesses in outer London who want more support and I’m pleased to be able to announce today a major expansion to the scheme run by TfL to ensure we can help them. 

“Anyone receiving child benefit and all small businesses in London will now be able to apply for thousands of pounds of support from the end of July. The current scheme can already help couples in London earning up to £40,000 per year, and the expanded scheme will be open to all families claiming child benefit, which supports those earning under £50,000 the most.

“Expanding the ULEZ was an incredibly difficult decision for me. But with toxic air damaging the health of millions of Londoners and the need to tackle the climate crisis, I believe the cost of inaction would simply be far too high a price to pay.”