Van-owning retailers in London could face steep fines and charges if they don't comply with new air-quality standards coming into force on January 3, 2012.

As part of a bid to improve London's air quality, the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will require all vans that weigh more than 1.2 tonnes unladen, or those that were registered as new before January 1, 2002, to meet a Euro III standard for particulate matter. Those vans which do not meet the required emissions standards by January 3, and who drive within Greater London, will have to pay a £100 daily charge, or risk a £500 penalty.

Retailers with non-compliant vehicles, of which there are an expected 72,000, can either pay the daily charge, fit an approved filter to improve the emissions, or purchase a newer vehicle.

Peter Clarke, business development manager at Western International fruit and vegetable market near Heathrow warned: "I knew of a couple of retailers who were forced to shut when the LEZ first came in for small lorries in 2008, so this could be bad news for those already struggling."