LEEDS could face “huge” fines unless action is taken to improve air quality in the city, councillors have been told.
The city is one of seven in England at risk of missing European targets on air quality which come into force in 2020 and could face financial penalties.
A report prepared for senior councillors says the Government is putting pressure on Leeds to introduce ‘clean air zones’ where the most polluting vehicles could face charges or be banned altogether.
Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, said: “Poor air quality contributed to more deaths in the UK than passive smoking, road casualties and drug misuse combined in 2012. In Leeds this equates to 350 deaths.
“It’s not all gloom and doom though. We all have the ability to make changes that will help Leeds cut transport emissions and improve people’s health.
“We’re under no illusions that this is going to be easy nor will it happen over-night. However, we all have a duty to those people who feel the effect of poor air quality the most to do what we can to improve their quality of life.”
The council’s executive will next week consider a range of measures designed to cut pollution without imposing clean air zones.
Powering bin lorries using compressed gas and helping bus and taxi operators to change to low emission vehicles are among the proposals.
Business will be encouraged to help their staff to car share or use other forms of transport to get to work.
Planning rules will be used to force developers to include charging points in new buildings and discounted parking spaces could be offered for electric cars in council car parks.
The council has previously stopped short of going ahead with the creation of clean air zones, preferring instead to try and negotiate with bus operators and others to find ways of reducing harmful emissions.