Air quality improvements may mean government funding will no longer be forthcoming

 

 
Leeds City Council has announced it has decided to suspend plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The city had planned to introduce the scheme in January, but this was postponed as a result of “delays to government systems”. In March the city council announced it would finally come into force in September.

However, the council has now decided to suspend the plans for the foreseeable future as a result of air improvements during lockdown could mean government support for the scheme would no longer be forthcoming.

“We have seen pollution levels fall significantly due to the quieter roads,” said James Lewis, deputy leader of the city council and executive member with responsibility for air quality. “Leeds residents now breathe air that is considerably cleaner and safer than just a few months ago.”

He added that while the pandemic had led to big changes in air quality, other actions had been taken locally ahead of the introduction of the CAZ that were now paying dividends.

We have seen pollution levels fall significantly

“Many of our buses, taxis, private hire and businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles and we’ve accelerated highways schemes that will reduce traffic and create more space for cyclists and pedestrians.

“We’re investing in public transport infrastructure as part of our £270m ‘Connecting Leeds’ transport programme and have introduced policies and schemes to support the uptake of electric and low emission vehicles.

Lewis said the city council would work closely with central government to review the long term impact that the pandemic and these other factors will have on the city’s air quality to understand whether pollution will ever reach illegal levels.

He continued: “If the city’s air pollution is expected to stay below legal limits then we will no longer have the support of the government to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone. Given this uncertainty, our financial support will continue to be paused until the review is complete and we have received further direction.

“I recognise that at an already uncertain time, this latest update will be frustrating for many businesses. However, I would like to ask drivers and operators for their continued patience whilst we carry out this urgent review. I hope to be able to clarify the future of the Leeds CAZ in the Autumn.”

 
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