Leeds’ Clean Air Zone rubber stamped

Leeds City Council has been given final approval by the government to implement a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the city.

The local authority has also been given £29m in funding by the government to help it implement the zone.

The CAZ will look to tackle air pollution in Leeds by charging owners of the worst-polluting HGVs, coaches, buses and private hire vehicles every time they drive within the zone boundary.

The scheme, which will not affect private cars, vans or motorcycles, is set to come into effect from Monday 6 January 2020.

£23m of this money will go towards supporting small businesses who will be based within the zone boundary move towards compliant vehicles and avoid daily charges.

Cllr James Lewis, Leeds City Council executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment, said: ‘Having now received the green light from the government, our priority is to ensure the successful delivery of the Clean Air Charging Zone as required by ministerial direction over the next fifty weeks.

‘Businesses that are likely to be affected need to look at the vehicles they operate and begin their final preparations for the introduction of the zone.’

Businesses using HGVs and non-scheduled buses or coaches can now enter a funding competition to receive grants of up to £16,000 per affected vehicle.

Taxi and private hire drivers, meanwhile, may be eligible to receive an interest-free loan of £10,000 per affected vehicle to help them replace it, or a grant of £1,500.

The council originally considered offering taxi drivers incentives of up to £3,000 to switch to electric vehicles only for the government to knock its proposals back, requesting that it reduced the size of its bid by at least a third.

‘We recognise that this will be a difficult transition for some businesses to make,’ Lewis said. ‘We have not received the full amount of funding that we asked the government for.

‘However, we are pleased to confirm today that a number of significant financial support packages will be available to assist owners of affected vehicles. We will be working hard to make sure this money is available swiftly.’

Leeds’ CAZ will cover over half of Leeds city centre, with HGVs, buses and coaches set to be charged £50 per day for travelling in the zone if they fail to meet the minimum emissions standards.

Taxis and private hire vehicles will be charged £12.50 per day, or a reduced rate of £50 per week if the vehicles are licensed in Leeds.

All revenues gained by the CAZ’s charges will only be used to cover the costs associated with operating the zone or fund other air quality improvement schemes in the city, according to the council.

The announcement of the plans’ approval has not been universally praised as the Road Haulage Association warned that the CAZ will put hauliers and other local businesses at risk.

The association said that with around half of lorries in the industry sector pre-Euro 6, the move will amount to a ‘punitive tax’ on Leeds’ businesses as they will either have to pay £50 a day or upgrade their vehicles.

RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said: “The goods still have to be delivered and there’s a strong possibility that there will be a considerable increase in van traffic.

‘However, it takes approximately 20 vans to move the same amount of goods as one HGV so how will that improve air quality? This is yet another example of the government and local authorities using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

£6.3m in funding will go towards the costs of monitoring the zone via fixed and mobile cameras which will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.