The municipality of Rotterdam ends access restrictions to passenger cars in the city environmental zone. The decision was announced in the local the Coalition Agreement presented on 26 June by the newly elected local government.
Access restrictions for petrol cars built before 1 January will be lifted as of 1 July, 2018, whereas restrictions applying to diesel cars built before 1 January, 2001, will be lifted 1 January, 2020.
The policy decision is remarkable as it was announced less than a month after the municipality won an appeal case at the highest general administrative court in which the municipality had asked to impose vehicle access restrictions to these ‘older’ passenger cars.
In a ruling of 6 June, 2018 the Administrative Law Division of the Council of State concluded that is allowed to impose vehicle access restrictions to these older vehicles in the city centre, overturning a previous ruling by a district court that excluded older petrol cars from the access restrictions.
In 2015, the municipality had decided to expand access restrictions in its environmental zone, which at the time only covered freight vehicles, to also include diesel cars built before 2001 and petrol cars built before 1 July 1992.
One group of opponents went to court, claiming the municipality took insufficient account of their interest and that the measure to ban old petrol cars within the environmental zone was disproportionate. Studies showed these cars make up only 0.14% of the traffic in the area, and in June 2017 the district court ruled that the environmental gain was too little to allow a ban on the old petrol cars. The court did allow the ban on old diesel cars.
The Municipality of Rotterdam appealed against the ruling of the District Court at the Council of State, which came to a different ruling than the court in first instance.
The Administrative Jurisdiction Division concluded that the municipality has done the weighing of interests properly and that "the adverse effects of the environmental zone are not disproportionate in relation to the goals to be served". The fact that environmental effects of banning the oldest, most polluting petrol cars from the centre may not be "significant in absolute terms" does not matter, according to the highest general administrative court. The Court saw it sufficient that this measure was part of a larger package of measures that should improve the air quality in Rotterdam and fitted in with the municipality's aim to achieve the greatest possible effect on air quality whilst imposing the least possible access restrictions to cars as possible. In addition, extension of the access restrictions was accompanied by measures aimed to mitigate the adverse consequences of the restrictions, such as a scrapping scheme and the provision of exemptions in specific cases.
Despite ruling of the Council of State, the new newly elected local government coalition announced to end access restrictions for passenger cars in Rotterdam’s environmental zone. The access restrictions for diesel fuelled freight vehicles will remain unchanged.
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