Fears raised for future of Leeds small businesses if clean air charging zone launched in 2020

A BUSINESS  that has operated in Leeds for 71 years would be among small firms under threat of closure if a clean air charging zone is introduced in January 2020, it has been claimed.
Linda Scotney and Mike CherryLinda Scotney and Mike Cherry
Linda Scotney and Mike Cherry

Leeds City Council is proposing to introduce a £40m Clean Air Zone scheme that would see high-emission HGVs and buses charged £50 a day, while taxis and private hire vehicles registered in the city would pay £50 a week.

Around 140 sets of new CCTV cameras could be erected to monitor vehicles’ number plates in the city charging zone.

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Under current proposals, the Clean Air Zone will cover more than half of the city and will include Bramley, Chapel Allerton, Roundhay and Crossgates.

Linda Scotney, owner of Wortley-based Ron Smith Turf Supplies, fears her business would be at risk of closure due to increased costs.

The business employs two people and operates two tipper trucks, which would not meet the regulations on emissions.

She said the business could not afford to buy new vehicles and fears the additional £2,000 monthly cost of operating in the zone would mean she would have to raise prices and lose out to businesses operating outside the zone.

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Mrs Scotney is urging council chiefs to give small businesses more time to replace older vehicles.

She said: “Everybody wants the Clean Air Zone, but the council has not considered the consequences to businesses.

“I fear that if the Clean Air Zone comes in with the regulations as they are, then my business along with a lot of small businesses in Leeds will be at risk of closing.

“We are a small family run business that has been in Leeds since 1947. We have built up a loyal customer base and the Clean Air Zone charges threatens all this hard work.

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“The plans as they currently are will penalise small Leeds firms and will cost local jobs. We are committed to improving air quality but we just need help and time.”

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said during a visit to Leeds: “Air pollution is an issue that affects us all and we all have a duty to do something.

“But we cannot put the burden solely on small haulage firms who have no alternative ways of operating and no ability to avoid the additional costs.”

Coun James Lewis, Leeds City Council's deputy leader and executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment, said the local authority has a legal obligation

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directed by the government to reduce air pollution levels to within legal limits in the shortest possible timescale.

Coun Lewis said: “Working within these parameters, we have done our best to give affected businesses as much time to prepare as possible: we were the first major city to announce and consult on our proposals for a Clean Air Charging Zone (CAZ) and are giving affected businesses the maximum time to prepare.

“A key element of these proposals is the support we’re proposing to help affected local businesses transition to cleaner vehicles which avoid charges.

"We firmly believe that it is important to help local businesses in order for the zone to most successfully reduce pollution

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“We will be asking the government for around £27 million – based on our current best estimates – from the national Clean Air Fund to enable us to help businesses transition to cleaner vehicles which avoid charges.

"This funding will allow us to offer grants of £16,000 to help businesses upgrade or retrofit their affected HGVs and avoid charges. Our CAZ proposals represent the best plans possible,

given the limited scope of support available from the government’s Clean Air Fund.”