A clash has taken place over the prospect of an ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) in Reading to make their air cleaner in the town.

Councillors have recently discussed responses to the Labour administration’s Air Quality Action Plan, determining how Reading Borough Council aims to improve air quality for the next five years.

Measures proposed include higher parking charges for polluting cars, ‘maximising’ tree planting and encouraging ‘modal shift’ from cars to using buses, walking and cycling.

But the Labour administration has ruled out a ULEZ like the one in London or a clean air zone like those in Birmingham and Bristol.

The measures were discussed by the council’s strategic environment, planning and transport committee on Wednesday, March 13.

John Ennis, lead councillor for climate strategy admitted some measures will be challenging.

Cllr Ennis (Labour, Southcote) said: “This will be a challenge for many, but ultimately will lead to a greener, cleaner Reading with clean air for all.”

He then took jabs at the Green opposition for opposing the inbound London Road bus lane project approved earlier this year.

READ MORE: Six new bus lanes in Reading officially approved after heated debate

The council’s strategy faced scrutiny from cllr Dave McElroy (Green, Redlands), who argued the action plan could be ineffectual, pointing out that only 14 per cent of people who responded to the consultation thought the measures would make a difference.

He said: “It’s great that most of the measures had strong support, but I guess that makes sense since they’re not particularly disruptive.

Reading Chronicle: Dave McElroy and Kathryn McCann, both Green councillors for the Redlands ward of Reading outside the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Credit: Reading Green PartyDave McElroy and Kathryn McCann, both Green councillors for the Redlands ward of Reading outside the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Credit: Reading Green Party

“Worthy pursuits with potential for good impact, but not transformative in a way that will turn Reading away from the town it is, one whose air is dominated by cars and the inner ring road.

“And I guess that’s borne out by just 14 per cent of respondents saying they have faith that the Action Plan will actually work.

“That is worrying.”

READ MORE: Green councillor selected party to fight for main Reading MP seat at next general election 

Cllr McElroy questioned how charging higher polluting vehicles more for parking would work.

He asked: “are we having a ULEZ or not?”

Cllr Ennis ruled out the proposal at the meeting.

Reading Chronicle: John Ennis, Labour councillor Southcote ward. Credit: Reading LabourJohn Ennis, Labour councillor Southcote ward. Credit: Reading Labour

There are fears that a ULEZ would penalise drivers of diesel cars and vehicles.

Drivers of diesels built before September 2015 have to pay the £12.50 per day charge to use their vehicle in London, £9 in Bristol and £8 in Birmingham.

Cllr McElroy did welcome the measure to maximise tree planting and greening, with planting being observed taking place near the town centre and Whitley in recent weeks.

Ultimately, councillors voted unanimously to implement the Air Quality Action Plan 2024-2029.

Additionally, councillors voted to continue to lobby for a Third Thames Bridge as a long term goal, despite such a project being likely to be delivered in 2029 when the plan will be up for renewal.

Cllr Isobel Ballsdon (Conservative, Caversham Heights) voiced her support for pushing for the bridge, with 55 per cent of respondents strongly agreeing with the measure.