By Maisie Andrews Garth
A “CLEAN air zone” has been proposed in Leeds City Centre to reduce the amount of pollution from high-emission vehicles.
There are 4,000 taxis for private hire registered in the city which continually add to the high volume of pollution in the air.
Leeds City Council is now planning to charge polluting vehicles like taxis, HGVs and buses to enter the centre. These vehicles could be charged up to a maximum of £100 per day for the highest emission-producing vehicle.
This year Leeds has been found to be one of the most polluted cities in the UK, and in 2016 air pollution is estimated to have cost the local NHS £480 million.
Lucinda Yeadon, deputy leader of Leeds City Council said: “The health impacts of living in areas of high pollution are very real, and we want to tackle these head-on to allow for our current and future generations the chance to grow up breathing clean air.”
The council’s plans follow a government campaign to reduce air pollution which started in 2016 and covers other cities like Derby and Nottingham.
Rachel Hartshorne, founder and coordinator of Healthy Air Leeds said: “The council’s plans to encourage HGVs, buses, taxis and coaches to lower their nitrogen oxide emissions should have a positive effect on the whole city, not just the city centre. We have been working with the council to discuss our own strategies for a clean air zone.”
The Department for Environment Food and Rural affairs published statistics showing that all of West Yorkshire is an Air Management Quality Area with very high levels of pollution.
Chris Bell, policy officer for Leeds Green Party said: “We are concerned with the strategy that the government has taken. It is not a constructive approach. It feels more like a punishment. They should be encouraging scrappage schemes and the transition from motor vehicles to bikes and other means of transport.”
Ms Hartshorne said it was important for the public to do their bit: “I would encourage people to get public transport or walk or cycle where possible and definitely turn engines off when stationary. We are all part of the problem.
“We need to keep the pressure up on the government to invest in reliable, affordable public transport and car manufacturers to introduce a proper diesel scrappage scheme.”