Leeds Clean Air Zone to Start in September

From 28th September, a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is to be implemented by Leeds City Council, which will see daily charges apply to heavily polluting vehicles for entry into the city centre. The zone is intended “to reduce air pollution and protect the health of everyone in Leeds”, according to the City Council’s CAZ website.

Initially meant to be launched in January 2020, the zone was postponed due to “government delays”. A similar zone in Birmingham is also to be established later in the year, following similar delays. The original proposal, back in October 2016, was that zones would also cover Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.

Image source: BBC News/Openstreetmap

How the zone will work

A daily charge of £50 will apply to all non-scheduled buses, coaches, and HGVs. While taxis and private hire vehicles will be charged £12.50 a day entering the zone, which covers most of the inner city. 

Privately owned cars, LGVs, motorcycles, and any smaller vehicles will not be charged for entry to the CAZ.

The zone will also not apply to First Leeds buses, which have made a separate pledge to reduce emissions and use greener vehicles by the end of this year.

A £6 million camera system is being installed with over 300 cameras to enforce the zone. Funding of £29 million, according to the BBC, was granted by the government for the establishment of the policy, with £23 million to assist those affected in transitioning.

In order to support local businesses, the council have announced a few different options to help. Firstly, there is a scheme offering free short-term use of low-emission vehicles for small businesses and charities. This will be run for 2 years and, according to the City Council, 250 organisations have already expressed interest. They are also offering different loans and grants to help the transition to greener vehicles.

According to the Council, the money brought in by the zone will be used to maintain the scheme, helping businesses and charities to adapt, and to fund other clean air initiatives in the city.

Why Leeds?

In February 2019, Friends of the Earth reported that parts of Neville Street had a NO2 level of 99 ug/m3, the highest level recorded outside of London. The City Council’s CAZ page states that without the zone, they expect that Leeds will fail the legal limits for air pollution this year.

A Committee on Climate Change report stated that, as the highest individual sector, transport accounts for 23% of air pollution. 

The hope, therefore, is that the zone will keep Leeds’s pollution levels at legal levels and promote the use of greener vehicles by business in metropolitan areas.

According to the BBC, in January 2020 it was noted that the number of electric and hybrid vehicles registered in the region had doubled since 2017, it is hoped the zone may therefore be another step in the right direction.

Potential impact

Whether the zone will increase the price of services frequently used by students is not yet clear. Although, it might at least make students  reconsider getting a taxi instead of the bus back from a night out or that last minute Uber to make a lecture on time.

Although the zone is broadly considered a step in the right direction, Friends of the Earth have stated that more could be done. In particular, they suggest that charges should be extended to diesel and petrol vehicles of all kinds using the city centre, which would encourage more people to use public transport whenever possible.

However, for the time being, only heavily-polluting vehicles will be charged for access to the city centre and, with the zone yet to be implemented, its impact on pollution levels can only be estimated.