Drivers in Leeds will be slapped with a new charge if they want to take a trip through the city centre.
By 2020, a new scheme similar to London’s congestion zone will be rolled out – and it could cost up to £12 per vehicle to drive down Leeds’s most popular streets.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said she wanted to target vehicles belching out the most harmful fumes.
Headingley in Leeds will be one hot-spot to tackle as new data shows it still has pollution rates far higher than the legal limit.
She said: “Our Clean Air Zones are targeted on the largest vehicles, whilst not affecting car owners and minimising the impact on business. We want to ensure people can continue to drive into city centres and by targeting action against the most polluting coaches, taxis, buses and lorries we will encourage the use of cleaner vehicles.”
Clean Air Zones will also be introduced in Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.
The announcement comes as the Government pledges its commitment to the reducing pollution in UK cities, which are responsible for 25,000 deaths a year nationally and 2,500 in Yorkshire and the Humber region.
Since 2003. levels of harmful nitrogen oxide have declined in the city centre, but in Headingley residents are still breathing in dirty air beyond legal limits.
To protect health, the Government recommends that nitrous oxide levels have a concentration level of no more than 40 µgm-3, however in Headingley this peaked at 51 µgm-3 in 2010 and is now at 43 µgm-3.
Leeds Lib Dems have welcomed the Government’s decision to impose a Clean Air Zone in the city, who believe it shines a spotlight on Leeds’s ‘repeated failure’ to meet EU emissions targets for emissions.
Councillor Jonathan Bentley (Weetwood), Leeds Liberal Democrat environment spokesman said: “Lib Dem councillors first raised this issue almost five years ago and many times since then, so whilst I’m glad we will finally see some progress on the issue, it really should have come much, much sooner.”
The Leeds city trolleybus is still being considered by the Government as an option for reducing air pollution and have listed that work could start in 2020 and completed in 2030 subject to approval.
This £250m project would involve 14km of overhead wires being run to power the service from north to south Leeds.
However environmental lawyers ClientEarth warned the proposals, which are part of the Government’s Air Quality Plan 2015 to meet EU targets, are not good enough.
They want the Government to go further and tackle pollution from passenger cars.