Ghent LEZ will be expanded after evaluation
The Ghent Low-Emission Zone (LEZ) will be extended during this legislature. However, when and in which districts will be thoroughly examined the next few years. The Ghent majority parties confirmed this on Monday during the municipal council. There will be a phased, zonally introduction, and a study to evaluate the social impact and flanking measures of the current LEZ.
The planned expansion of the LEZ has been dividing the Ghent College for weeks now. The reason is the change of course of coalition partner sp.a. Although the socialists signed the administrative agreement, and thus the expansion of the LEZ, they suddenly have their doubts.
They wondered whether the green measure would not mainly affect lower-income groups, because they often drive polluting types of diesel and are, therefore, no longer allowed to enter the inner city, just as they have insufficient means to buy a new, more fuel-efficient car. Moreover, there is an impact on the car market. Second-hand types of diesel are hardly ever sold anymore, while gasoline cars suddenly become much more expensive.
New party chairman
This change, of course, came under pressure from Conner Rousseau, the new party chairman. “We want to push the pause button as far as LEZ zones are concerned,” Rousseau said last week in the Flemish Parliament.
With sp.a, Rousseau wants to pull the ordinary man’s card. But with his critical attitude toward the LEZ, he is sending his party away from Groen, which still sees salvation in the LEZ. Also in Ghent, where both parties have jointly introduced the LEZ.
The Ghent sp.a is not necessarily against an extension of the LEZ, but it requires a thorough evaluation first. ‘What is the real environmental benefit?’ versus ‘What is the impact on the socially disadvantaged?’. “We don’t want to take measures blindly,” says sp.a councilor Joris Vandenbroucke. “We have insisted on taking social measures,” he is quoted in De Morgen. “The fight for clean air must not increase inequality.”
No blind expansion
Measurements in Antwerp show that the improvement in air quality is rather limited. The Antwerp socialists, together with the rest of the city council, have, therefore, decided not to expand the zone. Groen dreams of putting the whole of Ghent in a LEZ,” it sounded yesterday in sp.a ranks.
“We don’t want a blind expansion.” A few weeks ago, Mobility Club VAB also advised Belgian cities and municipalities not to introduce new low-emission zones for the time being.
But that is difficult for Groen, because the Ghent administrative agreement provides for an extension beyond the Ghent ring road and even into the port area. Now, the prohibition only applies in the inner city in the zones that coincide with zone 30.
Both Groen and the sp.a responded with satisfaction to the compromise reached, although also at Mayor Mathias De Clercq’s Open Vld, some had their doubts. So, there will be another extension this legislature, but first, it will be considered where and when it is feasible to extend the LEZ.
The Ghent opposition – they introduced proposals not to expand the LEZ, but these were voted down – was critical of the compromise reached. An expansion of the LEZ will affect “190 000 inhabitants of Ghent who live outside the ring road R4,” said N-VA floor leader Anneleen Van Bossuyt. “An extension to the port area would also affect employees of the companies there.”
Green public transport
Criticism that went down the wrong way with the Ghent sp.a. “Sp.a asks in the Flemish Parliament to give people the certainty that they can count on extra public transport and the De Lijn’s buses are also environment-friendly,” said Vandenbroucke. “That’s easy, of course, to come here and say boldly that you are against a LEZ while the N-VA in the Flemish Parliament rejects the proposals that meet your concerns.”
Daily 600 polluting cars
Since 1 January, stricter standards have applied in the LEZs of Antwerp, Brussels, and Ghent. Only types of diesel with a Euro standard higher than 4 are allowed to drive there. Not less than 17% of all cars in Flanders are diesel cars that no longer meet the stricter standards, calculated the automotive sector federation, Febiac.
Figures show that during the first month of the Ghent LEZ almost 600 polluting cars drove into the city center every day. Out of a total of 133 677 registered vehicles with a Belgian number plate, 95% met the admission requirements. Most infringers (56%), however, had foreign license plates.
Of the Belgian vehicles that entered the zone between 1 and 24 January, 4,6% did not meet the standards. These are old cars that are no longer allowed at all (red category), together with diesel cars with a Euro standard 4 for which no admission was paid (orange category).
Belgians who were not in line received a one-off warning letter in the first month. As of 1 February, offenders risked a €150 fine.