Motorists in London and five other cities may face restricted access if they drive a diesel vehicle under new Government plans.
The proposals apply to drivers in the capital, along with Southampton, Derby, Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds as part of schemes to improve inner-city air quality.
It is already predicted that all six locations will not hit their air quality goals for 2020.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ' (DEFRA) consultation document wants these cities' local councils to think about access restrictions to certain vehicle types.
DEFRA says such actions would lower emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Experts calculate the poisonous gas claims 23,500 lives in Britain every year. Small soot particles kill another 29,000 people a year.
London's environment advisors have already urged Mayor Boris Johnson to bring forward action to reduce the impact of diesel vehicle emissions .
In July the environment committee on the London Assembly said it wanted to bring in the capital's Ultra-Low-Emission Zone (ULEZ) ahead of its current 2020 launch.
Under Mr Johnson's plans, only the least-polluting diesel vehicles will escape a daily £12.50 fee every time they enter the capital's congestion charge area. This will be in addition to the existing £11.50 standard fee.
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “We have been saying that central Government needs to take a lead on helping local authorities manage air quality issues caused by oxides of nitrogen that can be harmful to health."
"This Government’s air quality consultation addresses many of our main concerns around demonising diesel cars as it recognises the contributions of all sources of nitrogen dioxide, not just cars which generally contribute less than buses and lorries."
"It also takes a tiered approach and targets only those areas where existing measures will not deliver the required improvements. Very positively, it proposes a framework for clean air zones to ensure a consistency of approach, thereby discouraging ill-informed knee-jerk reactions such as that of Islington Council with its £96 annual surcharge for residents with diesel vehicles."
"If implemented sensibly the proposals will make a valuable difference to local air quality but the big question is whether central government will be able to require local authorities to stick to the framework?"
Copyright Press Association 2015
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)