More than half back charges in clean air zones

More than half of people support the introduction of charges for polluting vehicles driving in 'clean air zones' in towns and cities to improve air quality, research published today has revealed.

Seven out of 10 are also in favour of the UK car industry contributing funding towards action to clean up illegal levels of pollution, according to the survey for the environmental law charity, ClientEarth.

The support for action comes as ClientEarth prepares to return to court against the Government on January 25 to try to force it to take more urgent steps to clean up the UK’s illegally dirty air.

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ClientEarth spokesman Simon Alcock said: “People are more aware than ever of the harm air pollution is causing to them and their children and they want to see action. The Government’s own evidence shows that a national network of charging clean air zones would be the most effective way to bring down illegal and toxic levels of air pollution.”

The poll of 1,692 adults found 52 per cent supported more clean air zones which charge motorists for entry into areas of towns and cities if their vehicle does not meet minimum pollution standards, with 18 per cent opposing them. And 53 per cent backed diesel scrappage schemes which provide incentives for people to trade in high-emitting diesel vehicles and buy a newer one, while only 10 per cent were against the move.

Air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and is linked to health problems from childhood illnesses to heart disease and even dementia.

Ministers unveiled court-mandated plans for meeting European Union limits on nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from road transport and particularly diesel vehicles, in July after a long-running legal battle with ClientEarth.

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The plans included £255m to help local authorities come up with ways to improve air quality, ranging from improving public transport and changing road layouts to charging zones for polluting vehicles if other measures are insufficient.

ClientEarth launched a new legal fight with the Government in October over what it said was a “stubborn failure” to tackle illegal air pollution since the rules were introduced in 2010.

Last month The Yorkshire Post revealed the region is one of the worst in the country for illegal levels of pollutants, putting children’s health at grave risk.

The study was released just weeks after council chiefs in Leeds unveiled plans to create a Clean Air Zone after it was named as one of 29 local authorities whose roads breached legal pollution levels.

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Buses, taxis and lorries could be hit with daily fines of up to £100 if they breach emissions limits under proposals by Leeds City Council.

The Government maintained pollution had “improved significantly” since 2010 but said a £3.5bn plan was in place to boost air quality and reduce harmful emissions.