Council leaders have stated they are treating the issue of high air pollution rates in the city “very seriously”, as EU officials threaten to take the UK Government to court over repeated breaches of legal limits.
Leeds’ deputy council leader Lucinda Yeadon said the authority is implementing a “range of measures” designed to improve air quality in the city, and is determined to tackle the problem “head-on”.
The assurances folllow a warning by the European Commission that it is willing to launch legal action against the UK unless it takes immediate steps to drive down levels of potentially harmful emissions.
The British Government has already lost a case in the High Court over its failure to reduce pollution rates in its major cities, with London, Birmingham Manchester and Leeds among 16 areas that have particularly high levels of nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2).
According to official estimates, air pollution is responsible for around 50,000 early deaths in the UK each year and costs the country’s economy £27.5bn. It has been described as a “public health emergency” by members of the influential Efra select committee, while Friends of the Earth has warned that it poses a health risk to “an entire generation of children”.
Last week, Leeds City Council joined five other local authorities in pollution hot-spots across the UK in writing to the Prime Minister calling for “urgent” action to tackle the problem. Responding to the Commission statement, CounYeadon said air quality is an issue the council is “taking very seriously”.
“We have developed a strategy which includes a range of measures being implemented in the city to improve air quality and reduce emissions,” she said.
“Together with several other major UK cities, Leeds signed a letter last week which called on the Prime Minister and the government to do much more on this issue... so we can tackle this together head-on.”