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Changes to the Transport for London (TfL) low emission zone (LEZ) rules next year will mean more horsebox owners must pay for pricey conversion work — or face a steep daily charge.

Previously, 3.5tonne boxes were exempt from the charge for driving in the LEZ, but, from 3 January 2012, boxes registered as new before 2002 and weighing 1.025tonnes (unladen) to 3.5tonnes (gross vehicle weight) will no longer meet the LEZ standards.

TfL says to fit a Ford Transit horsebox with a new filter to make it fit the standards will cost around £1,500. However, Michael Beal from JMB Horsepower, a horsebox manufacturer and repair company, puts the cost for some boxes at up to £2,500.

He says: “If the horsebox only cost £5,000, it’s not a viable option — so owners are having to upgrade or avoid driving in the area.”

Additionally, all filters must be tested by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.

The LEZ covers most of Greater London and an estimated 72,000 vehicles of all sorts are likely to be affected. In addition, larger horseboxes that weigh over 3.5tonnes and that currently meet the standard will see emission requirements tighten again from 3 January 2012.

Owners of non-compliant vehicles must pay £100 (vehicles 3.5tonnes and under) or £200 (over 3.5tonnes) each day they enter the LEZ, an option for occasional visitors.

But horse owners who live within the zone must upgrade or modify their lorry, or risk a £500 fine. According to the British Horse Society, there are around 55 licensed riding centres in Greater London.

Nick Fairholme from TfL said: “Owners of horseboxes have almost a year to take action to meet the new standards.”

Check your vehicle’s status: www.tfl.gov.uk/lezlondon.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (24 February, 2011)