A review by Leeds City Council and the Government has found that Leeds Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is no longer required due to recent improvements in air quality in the city. Meanwhile, the Government has approved plans for CAZs to go live in Bath and Birmingham in 2021 following delays linked to Covid-19.
According to Leeds City council, because of the shift to cleaner vehicles, air pollution in Leeds on key routes is significantly below legal limits and is not likely to exceed them again – even if traffic were to return to ‘normal levels' after the impacts of the Covid pandemic.
The Council has asked permission to keep the £6.9m CAZ funding and to use it to continue to offer grants to help local businesses switch to cleaner vehicles as well as to provide free licensing costs to drivers of less polluting taxi and private hire vehicles.
Cllr James Lewis, deputy leader for Leeds City Council and Executive Board member with responsibility for air quality said: ‘We have achieved the aims of the Clean Air Zone without having to charge a single vehicle. If Leeds were to introduce a CAZ today, only a fraction of vehicles would be affected because the vast majority of businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles than they were just a few years ago.
‘While we celebrate that our air is cleaner than ever and cleaner than some other UK cities, this council also recognises that air pollution remains the biggest environmental threat to our health.
‘That’s why we’re considering voluntarily introducing even stricter targets for Leeds, aligned with WHO guidelines. We will continue working hard to protect the health of everyone in Leeds from the effects of polluted air.’
Andrea Lee, clean air campaigns manager at environmental law charity Client Earth, said: ‘Leeds is not out of the woods yet with its toxic air pollution problem, but it’s abandoning the one measure guaranteed to protect people in the shortest possible time.
‘While the promise of a Clean Air Zone has prompted drivers and businesses to switch to cleaner vehicles, the latest reported air pollution measurements from the Council still show that parts of the city are over national air quality standards.
Meanwhile, the Government has approved plans for Clean Air Zones (CAZs) to go live in Bath and Birmingham next year. The schemes had been due to start this year but were postponed because of Covid-19.
Bath’s scheme, which covers the city centre, will start on 15 March 2021 while the Birmingham scheme will go live on 1 June 2021. Bath will be England’s first charging CAZ to go live outside London.
A daily charge of £100 will apply to the heaviest-emitting HGVs, buses and coaches that enter the zone, but there will be no charge for cars and motorbikes.
Non-compliant vans, taxis, private hire vehicles and minibuses will pay £9 a day. Pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles and pre-Euro 4 petrol vehicles will be charged under the CAZ.
Birmingham’s scheme will cover the area inside the inner ring road (A4540 Middleway). Owners of the most polluting vehicles will need to pay a daily charge to drive into or through the Clean Air Zone.
The charge will be £8 for cars, taxis (Hackney Carriages/black cabs & Private Hire), LGVs (vans) and £50 for HGVs (trucks and lorries), coaches and buses.
TransportXtra reports that Bath & North-East Somerset Council said nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Bath fell by about 20% during lockdown but have since risen and are “close to the levels that would be expected at this time of year”.
“Whilst traffic levels fell by around 70% during lockdown they are already back to within 10% of the levels expected at this time of year, with weekend levels being almost back to normal.”
Earlier this year, it was reported that Bristol City Council may reverse its plan to introduce a CAZ and is looking at alternative options to improve air quality.
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, Fleet News reported that Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees says travel habits in the city are changing and its pollution levels are lower.
“Our plans have always been about cleaning up our air in the fastest possible time and not being anchored to one method,” explain Rees.
The council says it will continue to do the work needed for the charging options it has been developing but will explore new opportunities.