The LEZ and the spirit of Community Transport
Posted: 06 Dec 2011
On 3 January 2012, the emissions rules in London will change. Minibuses will join diesel lorries, buses and coaches under the London Low Emission Zone regulations – the LEZ. In practical terms this means that most minibuses over 10 years old will either need to be replaced or substantially refitted.
If you are one of the rich threads of our community in London – a charity, school, scout group, sports or youth club, community or faith group – and you happen to own an elderly minibus, this places you on the horns of a dilemma. On the one side, you will know that the LEZ’s aim is to tackle pollution – and the type of pollution which can contribute to asthma, heart and lung disease, other respiratory illnesses and even early death. It is plainly the right change to be making.
On the other hand, the prospect of fundraising for a new minibus in the current environment may fill these groups and organisations with dread. It’s not a great time to be faced with a new challenge, however worthwhile. Many have already faced funding cuts. Others would rather spend scarce resources more directly on service users, members and beneficiaries.
I am reminded that communities have faced these pressures before – in preceding recessions. Their response to these pressures is one I find truly inspiring – and it is one that has shaped my personal story and that of HCT Group. In recessions past, communities did not compete for scarce resources to fund minibuses. Instead, they came together to share those vehicles in common for the good of all. This is the spirit of Community Transport.
There is good news for groups and organisations thinking about how to fund their next minibus after the LEZ comes into force. It is that this community resource of vehicles is already there for them. They need not seek a new minibus at all. There is a thriving Community Transport organisation in most areas of London – we ourselves operate Group Transport minibuses in eight London Boroughs.
I believe that those groups who must retire their minibuses as a consequence of the LEZ have an opportunity. It is not just an opportunity save a great deal of money – although Group Transport is likely to prove a lot cheaper than buying and maintaining their own vehicles. It is also a chance to participate in one of the great examples of common ownership for social good, one that is just as relevant today as it was when HCT Group was first founded in 1982 as Hackney Community Transport.