Leeds MP says decision to scrap city's Clean Air Zone is 'hugely disappointing'

Leeds North East Labour MP Fabian HamiltonLeeds North East Labour MP Fabian Hamilton
Leeds North East Labour MP Fabian Hamilton
Leeds North East Labour MP Fabian Hamilton said it is "hugely disappointing" that the Leeds City Council's  controversial charging Clean Air Zone is to be scrapped by the authority and Government.

It follows an announcement last month that the much-delayed £29m scheme would be paused due to unexpectedly positive air quality levels in the city.

The plans would have seen high-emitting taxis, HGVs and buses charged a fee for entering the city centre and parts of north Leeds, but had been beset with delays since they were first signed off by the Government in 2019.

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Mr Hamilton said: “It’s hugely disappointing that our city’s Clean Air Zone has been scrapped at the eleventh hour.

"We face a climate emergency and cities across the country must lead the way to ensure that the UK meets its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

"It was evident from the huge climate protests in our city last year that the people of Leeds understand the huge threat climate change poses to our way of life and our society as a whole.

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"It’s a real shame that, on this occasion, the Clean Air Zone has not been established but, for the sake of future generations, I hope that similar environmental initiatives will come to light in Leeds in the very near future as they are desperately needed.”

Senior figures at the council have said air pollution at key points in the city was “not likely to exceed legal limits ever again, even if traffic returned to normal levels”, and that the zone was no longer required.

This is despite millions of pounds of government money being spent on business grants and a new camera network to monitor non-eco-friendly vehicles travelling in and out of the city.

And, following the announcement in September that the scheme would be paused, it also drew scorn from taxi and private hire vehicle drivers, some of whom said they had been pushed into spending thousands on eco-friendly cars they no longer needed.

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Deputy council leader, Coun James Lewis, said that the frustrations over the scheme’s difficulties – and its ultimate cancellation – were offset by the fact Leeds now had cleaner air.

He said: “There has been quite a lot of twists and turns on this and lots of delays. Those drivers that have moved over to hybrid vehicles are now spending so much less on petrol. It’s not all bad news and we are appreciative of those people who have switched over.

“It’s great we have achieved what we wanted to do and people in Leeds are breathing much cleaner air.”

Plans for the zone had been signed off by the Government in January 2019, giving Leeds City Council £29m of funding to create the new zone, along with a camera network.

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The council says it will also be able to keep and repurpose the camera infrastructure that had been installed to monitor and enforce the zone. In the unlikely event that air quality declined for any reason, the council retains this infrastructure and could seek support from central government to introduce a Clean Air Zone.

It added grants and interest-free loans would still be available to help local businesses switch to cleaner vehicles as well as to provide free licensing costs to drivers of less polluting taxi and private hire cars.

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