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Fulham clean air neighbourhoods took in almost £12m in fines last year

Two clean air neighbourhoods now operate across south Fulham (Jeremy Selwyn)
Two clean air neighbourhoods now operate across south Fulham (Jeremy Selwyn)

A pair of Clean Air Neighbourhoods (CANs) in south Fulham collected around £11.8m last year in fines, the local authority has revealed.

Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council has said however that it expects the CANs to generate only about £5.6m this year, as drivers are increasingly adapting to the schemes.

The project aims to reduce ‘rat-running’ - and resultant pollution - on residential streets by out-of-borough drivers through the use of cameras at key locations away from main roads.

Under the scheme, residents with cars registered in the borough, their guests, black cabs, carers, business visitors and others with exemptions can go through the scheme’s cameras covering the areas without receiving a penalty charge.

The first CAN was established on residential roads east of Wandsworth Bridge Road in July 2020 and made permanent in December 2021. It has been joined by a second zone west of the bridge and south of New Kings Road, which was launched on a trial basis in February 2023. The council’s cabinet voted to make the second CAN permanent at a meeting earlier this month.

The project has proved controversial among some in the borough, with one resident saying it has “divided the local community, damaged local businesses, harmed people’s livelihoods and their lives, and it raises serious ethical concerns”.

Local Tory MP Greg Hands has said that the project “has had an awful impact on local businesses, and heaped extra congestion on to New Kings Road and Wandsworth Bridge Roads”.

But others, particularly those living inside the affected zones, have praised the CANs for bringing relief to residential roads after decades of being “plagued” with rat-running.

The council has now revealed that in 2023, the western CAN collected about £7.8m in fines, though it predicts this figure to reduce by two thirds - to around £2.6m - in 2024, as drivers become more used to the scheme.

The compliance rate of vehicles in the western part of the project was at around 88.93 per cent when it began in February 2023, with £1.3m paid out by drivers. By December however, compliance had risen to 97.57 per cent, with about £289k collected in fines.

The longer-established eastern CAN took in around £4m in fines last year, the council said. This was a reduction from the £6.2m it collected in 2022, and the authority expects the figure to drop again in 2024, to roughly £3m.

Concerns were raised in recent months over the safety of women at night in the zone, as many reported that Uber and other ride-hailing app drivers were refusing to drop them at their front doors, in fear of being fined - despite being exempt from the scheme.

The problem was said to have arisen due to “data protection issues” which were preventing Uber from sharing the number plates of their drivers.

It was announced at the council’s cabinet meeting this month however that the issue has been resolved, as Uber has signed an agreement with the authority to enable a “technical solution”. The authority has now reached the same agreement with Uber’s competitor, BOLT, and has been in talks with other ride-hailing apps for similar arrangements to be made.

A council spokesman said: “15,000 fewer cars a day are using the residential side streets of south Fulham as commuter cut-throughs, while 1.4 tonnes of deadly nitrogen oxide and two tonnes of climate-damaging carbon emissions have been removed from the air [daily].

“Since the recent clean air trial began, fines have tumbled by almost 80 per cent as predicted and pollution from congestion has become a thing of the past in residential streets, which are now quieter, cleaner and safer.

“Any surplus from the fines goes into our ambitious programme of hundreds more trees, new safe cycle routes, better flood drainage and green landscaping, and encouraging play streets and cafe culture - all to make Hammersmith and Fulham the best place to live, shop and work.”