Proposals to establish a Clean Air Zone in Leeds could lead to an increase in the number of large vans driving on the citys streets, potentially creating more congestion and pollution in the city, the Road Haulage Association has claimed.
The organisation, which represents the haulage sector, has made the comments in its response to the consultation on the city councils CAZ proposals, which ended this month.
Under the plans, the council is proposing a charge for buses, coaches and HGVS of 50 a day and a charge of 12.50 a day for taxi and private hire vehicles to drive in parts of the city from late 2019.
The proposals are part of the citys government-mandated requirement to bring nitrogen dioxide emissions to within legal limits within the shortest time possible.
The authority is also seeking government support to accredit HGV retrofits and help smaller companies finance the change, along with a national register of private hire and taxis to ensure all relevant vehicles entering the zone are charged proportionately.
However, RHA has claimed that due to a current lack of retrofit options to reduce emissions from HGVs logistics firms are likely to switch to vans to avoid having to pay the charge to enter the CAZ.
The organisation has also challenged data used by the council in its consultation which suggests that as many as 94% of HGV journeys in the CAZ area will be made by Euro VI-compliant lorries.
In its response to the consultation, which it published on its website last week, RHA expressed concerns over the proposed timing of the implementation of the CAZ, as it believes there are likely to be insufficient numbers of Euro VI lorries capable of meeting the citys requirements.
It said: Compliance with the changes will be impossible for many businesses due to the lack of Euro VI Lorries, the absence of a lorry retrofit option, and the limited opportunity for redeployment of Euro IV and V vehicles outside Leeds. Implementing a tax in this way on the sector will destroy some businesses and will make no material difference to air quality.
The RHA also claims that the council has wrongly assumed that there will be zero shift from lorries to large vans in order for logistics firms to avoid having to pay the charges.
This is simply wrong, the RHA states, adding: as the large vans are excluded from daily charging there will be some operations that will shift away from lorries. As vans carry less, more vans will be used to deliver a given amount of goods adding to congestion and emissions.
Responding to the comments, the city councils executive board member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment, Councillor James Lewis said that the authority had done months of detailed modelling in a bid to assess the impact of the proposals.
Like other cities, Leeds city council has a legal obligation directed by the government to reduce air pollution levels to within legal limits in the shortest possible timescale. The draft proposals that we have consulted on are the result of months of detailed modelling using the best data available, and closely following the guidance provided to us by the government.
Throughout this process, we have made great efforts to communicate with all affected businesses and work with them to help them prepare for the CAZ. We were the first major city to announce and consult on our CAZ proposals andby proposing to implement it from January 1st 2020are giving affected businesses the maximum time to prepare, as permitted by the governments national framework. We are also currently exploring a range of support packages to help affected businesses transition to cleaner vehicles.