Reports suggest that the government are considering diesel-restricting Clean Air Zones in a number of towns and cities across the UK in an effort to tackle air pollution.
In November 2016 the government was given until August this year to put a new national air quality plan in place after the High Court found its previous plan inadequate for meeting EU standards.
The government had originally proposed to create five Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in urban areas in Leeds, Derby, Southampton, Birmingham and Nottingham.
The zones would reduce traffic emissions by limiting access for older diesel vehicles - which are responsible for the most damaging local air pollutants.
This could take the form of charges, time-of-day restrictions or blanket vehicle bans.
Several major cities in Europe already have their own measures in place.
The updated plan is expected to be open for public consultation by the end of April, and the government is understood to be considering a much wider programme of CAZs.
According to environmental news reporters ENDS, up to 50 could be put in place, covering urban areas including Manchester, Bolton, St Helens, Widnes and Liverpool.
A separate report in the Sunday Times suggests that 35 urban areas will be included. Both private and commercial diesel vehicles could be completely banned during peak traffic hours in the city centres with the worst air pollution, it said.
Manchester is already investigating the feasibility of introducing a CAZ as part of its Low Emission Strategy.
Sam Hall, researcher at think tank Bright Blue, said: “Air pollution is a serious public health issue that goes well beyond just a few cities.
“Our research has shown that 40 per cent of local authorities in the UK breached legal air pollution limits in 2015.
“Low emission zones are a targeted solution to cutting air pollution that reduce the number of old polluting vehicles entering polluted cities. They also ensure that the owners of these vehicles pay the social costs of their pollution.”
Any CAZs established would have to be in place before 2020 to comply with the High Court’s ruling in November.
A diesel scrappage scheme has also been mooted to encourage the move away from diesel vehicles.