Ulez expansion could be 'death of the classic car', enthusiasts warn

Scheme designed to reduce air pollution in London will be extended to outer boroughs on August 29

James Stoddart, a sunbed salon owner in Mitcham, south-west London, has a 1985 Austin Mini which does not meet Ulez emissions standards. PA
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The expansion of Ulez restrictions on vehicles across Greater London next week could sound the death knell for the classic car as a part of the city's transport scene, owners have warned.

London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) will be extended to the capital's outer boroughs on August 29, forcing hundreds of thousands of drivers to pay daily fees from next week.

Sunbed salon owner James Stoddart has invested more than £20,000 ($25,235) into his 1985 Austin Mini. His business is based in Mitcham, south-west London, but he lives in Epsom, Surrey, on the edge of the new Ulez border.

"I'm going to have to restrict how often I take this car out now, which I know will kill off modern classic cars not just for me but for thousands of enthusiasts," the 62 year old said.

The changes will mean about 700,000 people with older car models, classed as high polluting, will have to pay a daily fee to drive in London. It spells the end of an era for many classic car enthusiasts in London.

Generally, petrol cars registered after 2005 and diesel cars after 2015 meet current emissions standards.

Locked into finance deal

But older vehicles will be charged £12.50 a day – with a penalty for non-payment of up to £180.

Some owners of older cars and motorbikes, such as Trevor Manlow, from Hillingdon, west London, say they will refuse to pay.

He is locked into a finance deal on his 2000 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide motorbike, with more than three and a half years left.

Mr Manlow, 53, said classic vehicles are going to become “museum artefacts or tin cans” thanks to the boundary change.

He added: “It makes me angry. Kids see these cars and bikes on the street and at shows and smile, they love it. However, the Ulez expansion is going to kill this as fewer people will be taking them out.

“I'll still ride my bike, I'll just refuse to pay the charge and I'll take it to a garage to make it Ulez-compliant at the first opportunity.”

Paul Robins, a 60-year-old plumber, owns three vehicles which were initially deemed not to have been Ulez-compliant but those decisions were overturned by Transport for London (TfL), the local government body responsible for most of the capital's transport network.

Mr Robins, from Biggin Hill, on the south-east outskirts of London, owns a 2000 BMW Alpina B10 3.3-litre car and a 2000 BMW 530i Touring car, plus a 2002 Honda CBR600 motorbike.

He said he had to provide TfL with a certificate of conformity to prove his vehicles met the emissions standards – a process he called a “ridiculous fight”.

Classic car owners affected by the Ulez expansion - in pictures

He said he had been sharing the news with local mechanics that not all pre-2006 cars will be non-compliant.

Mr Robins said: “The thing that really annoys me is it was so much of a fight, they reject [the compliancy application] for nonsensical reasons.”

He added that the Ulez expansion “could be the death of the modern classic car”.

Paul Tucker, a 52-year-old vehicle body-fitter, said he would have to take out a loan to buy a new car, incurring debt as he sells his 1998 Peugeot 106 Rally, which he uses to commute to work in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, north-west of London.

Mr Tucker, from Northolt, west London, is angry he has to give up a vehicle he has owned for more than 15 years.

“I feel targeted, it's just another money-making scheme. If the mayor was serious, he'd issue a complete ban,” he said.

“I need a car to get to work and I can't afford one outright, so I'm going to have to take out a loan to buy one. I'm going to be in debt because of Ulez.

“A lot of people are going to suffer because of this scheme.”

'I am so wound up'

Retired aircraft engineer Peter McGeough plans to scrap his 1999 Volvo V70, which he has owned for 20 years, and says he cannot afford to buy an Ulez-compliant car and will have to rely on his family for transport.

Mr McGeough, 80, from Greenford, west London, said: “As this is my only vehicle, I'm going to have to depend on my family to help with my day-to-day jobs, like food shopping, going to the doctor – I just have no other way of getting there. I am so wound up at the whole situation.”

Launched in 2019, Ulez is the world's first scheme that requires vehicles to comply with anti-pollution measures 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Separate from the congestion charge, which is aimed at reducing traffic, Ulez is designed to cut air pollution in the capital by discouraging the use of high-emission vehicles through imposing a daily fee.

It aims to improve the health of Londoners by reducing the amount of particulate matter and nitrous oxide that they breathe.

In 2020, Ella Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to have air pollution cited as a cause of death.

She died in 2013, aged nine, after suffering from an asthma attack brought on by ingesting traffic fumes near her home in south-east London.

Updated: August 25, 2023, 12:48 PM