MPs overturn Utrecht’s city centre ban on old cars

Smoke exhaust pipe carUtrecht officials said on Friday they will not accept parliament’s efforts to scrap a ban on old polluting vehicles from the city centre.

A majority of MPs on Thursday voted in favour of cancelling the so-called environmental zone which Utrecht has introduced and other cities are considering. Rotterdam plans to introduce a similar set up to Utrecht from January 1.

The idea to scrap the zones came from the ruling VVD which considers them to be expensive and a waste of time. The Socialists, Christian Democrats, fundamentalist Christian SGP and anti-immigration PVV all voted in favour of lifting the ban.

Utrecht city council says the decision to ban older cars will reduce the amount of sooty emissions by 30% a year. Cars built more than 15 years ago have been banned from the city centre since May 1.

‘It remains to be seen if the state can actually stop us,’ said the city’s environment alderman Lot van Hooijdonk . ‘Councils are given responsibility for cleaner air but this measure is being taken away from us.’

Anne Knol, of green lobby group Milieudefensie, said parliament’s decision is incomprehensible. ‘Environmental zones make sure cars which are highly polluting can no longer enter the city centre,’ Knol said. ‘In Germany these initiatives have led to much better air quality in cities. Air pollution leads to chronic illness and premature death.’

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