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Orpington 1st column: The road ahead for Orpington

I have written before in this magazine about my opposition to the Mayor’s decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone [ULEZ], London-wide. Despite large scale opposition, the Mayor implemented the scheme on 29th August.

I was disappointed that the Judicial Review brought by Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon, and Surrey councils failed. I do believe Bromley Council was right to launch the judicial review because of the effect on the people of Orpington.

A reminder that the ULEZ standards are:

· Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category)

· Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles

· Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles.

If your vehicle does not meet the above standards than you will be charged £12.50 per day.

The new daily driving charge could cost up to £4,500 per year while many families continue to experience pressures on their household budgets.

I know that the cost of the ULEZ will be felt hardest by small businesses and those on fixed incomes. I have listened to business owners who simply cannot afford to continue to trade because of the additional cost of the ULEZ. Businesses have also informed me that they simply have no choice but to pass the cost on to their customers potentially reducing the demand for services.

Pensioners who do not have the funds for compliant vehicles are finding it difficult to carry out weekly tasks or even see their loved ones. Several have told me in distress that they are effectively being made housebound.

The high streets in the Orpington area have their own distinct character because of boutique and independent shops. If they must close, then we may see empty units in their place and thereby lose the intrinsic fabric of our community.

On 1st September, it was in the news that there had been 171 reports of vandalised ULEZ cameras logged by the Met Police. There have been incidents of this occurring in Orpington. I do understand the frustration many feel about the ULEZ expansion having not been listened to by the Mayor of London. However, as your MP, I cannot condone law breaking or the vandalism of the ULEZ enforcement cameras.

The Mayor has at least expanded the criteria for residents and businesses to apply for funding from the scrappage scheme. I understand that the money available [up to £2000] is not adequate to cover the cost of a new ULEZ compliant car. It certainly does not pay for a new fleet of vehicles. However, I encourage you all to apply for the support available to you. I would not want you to miss out on this opportunity.

If you have experienced difficulties with applying for the scrappage scheme, please contact my office. My team will liaise with Transport for London on your behalf and request assistance with your application.

The fact that the scheme has now started does not alter my opposition to it. Please be assured that I will continue to campaign against the London-wide ULEZ.

At the time of writing, I and other MPs are due to meet with the Prime Minister and Transport Ministers to discuss possible ways forward.

The King’s Speech is due for 7th November. This is the process which marks a new year in Parliament and, with it, the forthcoming legislative agenda.

I have already publicly suggested that this opportunity could be used for new Bills to either directly reverse the ULEZ expansion or give Ministers the unambiguous power to veto devolved decisions.

Business rates are a common issue that many retailers have approached me about since being elected, and I have spoken in Parliament about the issue several times.

Rates are still based on a 1500s Elizabethan-era model, so I have called for a review of the principles behind this policy to better align it with the 21st century digital marketplace.

One suggestion made by Orpington 1st themselves has been to move to a proportional profits system. I will continue to hold roundtables with local businesses and present their examples to Ministers in support of a rethink.

Many businesses have also been calling for more visible policing and stronger deterrence. After campaigning together with Orpington 1st, I am very pleased that the Metropolitan Police have set up a ‘Town Team’: a 7-strong squad for Orpington. This will help residents and retailers alike have greater confidence in our town’s security. I recently met with Superintendent Baldock and will be liaising on the town’s local priorities.

However – in less good news – following branch closures in other areas over the past three years, Barclays will be closing the Orpington branch in December. Although a new ‘Local Site’ will be provided, I fully appreciate this change stands to affect operations for many. I will be meeting the Barclays team to discuss the situation and what mitigations will be offered, including the possibility of an extension to give businesses more time to adjust.

These are long-standing local projects that I have been working on and I will continue to do so in your interests to help deliver for Orpington.

Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by Orpington 1st.


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