Horsebox owners and equestrian traders in Greater London face the prospect of increased costs and hefty fines for missed emissions targets under plans currently being considered by London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone.

In an attempt to improve air quality in London — which, according to academics at the capital’s King’s College, is among the worst in any European city — Mr Livingstone is considering introducing a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in the city from early 2008.

The zone would cover the entire Greater London area and vehicle owners in each of the city’s 32 boroughs would have to comply with the new regulations. The M25 motorway would not fall within the zone.

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesman told Horse & Hound that all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes that do not meet the Euro 3 standard on engine emissions — and most lorries built before 1999 do not — would have to be modified at a cost of around £3,000.

Owners who do not pay for these alterations would face a charge of around £200 every time they drive their vehicle in the zone. Failure to pay the charge would result in a fine ranging from £500 to £1,000.

Caroline Stevenson, chief instructor at Wimbledon Village Stables, has been told by her mechanic that her horsebox, which was registered in 1989, is too old to be modified. She uses it several times a week.

“The cost of purchasing a new lorry is prohibitive,” she said, “and paying the mooted £200 fine every time we use our horsebox would mean our riding school could no longer operate. Unless horseboxes are given exemption status then I can’t see how riding schools within the zone will be able to remain open.”

The TfL spokesman said the zone would be strictly implemented, that there would be no discount for individuals living in the zone and that there would be no exemptions for horseboxes.

“We need people to think about why they are driving their vehicles and what effect it has on the environment,” said the TfL spokesman. “All road-going vehicles would have to comply. The only exceptions to this rule are agricultural vehicles, such as combine harvesters.”

TfL is currently canvassing public opinion, but views must be registered by 2 February at The British Horse Society (BHS) contacted all affiliated yards by post earlier this month, encouraging them to do this. A decision on whether or not to implement the zone is expected by the summer.

  • This news report can be read in full in today’s Horse & Hound (25 January, ’07)