Leeds to consult on Clean Air Zone as air quality and health impacts are put top of the agenda

Clean Air Zone (CAZ) Leeds
On 17 December 2015 the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced plans to create Clean Air Zones (CAZ’s) in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020 to improve air quality in those cities.

Leeds City Council is looking for the views of people living, working and commuting in Leeds and the wider region on its proposals to improve air quality and protect the health of people in the city.

Leeds along with 27 other local authorities across the UK has been identified by the government as needing to introduce a range of solutions to meet legal limits on air pollution and therefore improve air quality within the shortest possible timescale.

A report will be presented to the council’s executive board on Wednesday 13 December outlining a consultation plan on a proposed charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) covering all roads within the outer ring road, with the motorways acting as the southern boundary. The vehicles affected are HGVs, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire.

There is now evidence that long and short periods of time spent in areas with bad pollution can worsen asthma symptoms and affect lung function. It is estimated that 40000 deaths in the UK per year are linked to poor air quality, highlighting the real need to drive down pollution across Leeds.

The Leeds proposal needs to allow the city to achieve national compliance levels within the shortest possible timescale, whilst also considering the overall impact on the city including financial impacts, inequalities, and displacement of emissions to other areas.

The key areas that the council will be consulting on are:
  • A charging Clean Air Zone covering all roads within the outer ring road, which charges HGVs, buses and coaches which are pre Euro 6 diesel, the new standard introduced in 2015.
  • Raising the standard of taxi and private hire vehicles to ultra-low emission vehicles (beyond euro 6), either petrol hybrid or electric. Funding will be sought to assist local drivers with meeting the cost of replacing current vehicles.
  • A number of clean air proposals which will work with the CAZ to help the city achieve compliance including; exploring support packages to work with businesses and residents to increase the adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles, raising awareness of air quality and the actions that individuals can take and working alongside the transport strategy to encourage people to shift their choice of transport.

To ensure compliance and to aid businesses affected by the introduction of a CAZ the council is exploring a number of support packages to provide financial support to make the transition to cleaner vehicles. Specific support packages will be introduced for different fleet types.

There is the possibility of exemptions being awarded for specific classes of vehicle, or ‘sunset’ periods to provide additional time for certain vehicle users to upgrade their vehicle prior to being charged. However, as this would make compliance harder to achieve a robust case must be provided for these actions to be considered.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment said: “In Leeds ensuring that we improve air quality and therefore the lives of all the people living and working in the city is a real priority for us.

“To ensure we hit our air quality targets, we will need significant support from the government. A wide variety of actions will need to be taken, and for this we will need greater investment in alternative modes of transport and infrastructure to support the growth of alternative fuelled vehicles.

“The health impacts of living in areas of high pollution are very real, and we want to tackle these head on to allow for our current and future generations the chance to grow up breathing clean air.

“We have already made huge progress in delivering on a number of large projects across the city with partners, and a number of trials for new technology are being undertaken as we speak to look at new ways to reduce pollution across the city and the wider region.

“We will be looking at a number of different options for support packages as part of the implementation of a Clean Air Zone and will be looking to the government for support with funding going forward.”

Before reaching the decision to consult on a Clean Air Zone category B, a number of alternatives were modelled to see what could and would work best for the city. From a non-charging option to a number of Clean Air Zones including just the inner ring road, through to an outer ring road category D which would have included private vehicles, it was decided that the proposal being presented could work best for the city and help achieve air quality standards within the shortest possible time, whilst avoiding displacing the problem elsewhere and minimising the numbers of people affected by a charge.

The consultation period is to be used to further assess the barriers faced by drivers whose vehicles currently fail to meet compliance standards, so that the council can then present a clear case to government on what extra support measures will be necessary before moving into the implementation phase.

Leeds has already implemented a number of successful initiatives that will contribute to improving pollution levels across the city, including trials around new technology designed to help improve air quality along with the development of the transport strategy which will be integral to bringing Leeds up to speed through our public transport networks.

The Leeds Clean Air Zone consultation will run from January to February 2018. After the results from the consultation have been analysed, a final report will be submitted to the Government towards the end of the summer of 2018 for them to sign off on the final proposal for Leeds.

What we are already doing in Leeds to combat air pollution

  • Leading the way in transitioning our fleet of vehicles to ultra-low or zero emissions vehicles. Currently, Leeds City Council has more low emissions vehicles than any other local authority in England.
  • Developing Compressed Natural Gas infrastructure for the city which will enable our own fleet (including refuse vehicles) to switch to CNG as well as helping commercial fleet operators to do the same.
  • Encouraging drivers to switch to ultra-low emissions vehicles by offering free parking to ULEVS in the council’s city centre car parks and 86 charging points across the city for electric vehicles.
  • Focus on encouraging greater use of public transport with major investments in bus and rail infrastructure including new rail stations and park and ride facilities as part of new multi million pound transport strategy outlined in December 2016.
  • Operator First West Yorkshire has pledged to invest £71m to provide 284 new state-of-the-art buses for its Leeds fleet by the end of 2020 as part of the new strategy, supporting the aim of improving air quality across the city. They have just introduced the first double decker electric bus as a trial in the city.
  • We are also encouraging alternatives to car use, including phase one of a new Cycle Superhighway through the city which is now open and plans for phase two being developed. This has been funded through £40m from the Department for Transport along with
  • LCC in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority were successful in gaining funding to install a network of electric vehicle charge points across the West Yorkshire region for use by the taxi and private hire trade.
  • Geo- fencing trial – LCC are part of project ACCRA that will assess the operational ability of hybrid vehicles to automatically switch to zero emission mode when they are in an area of poor air quality. The initial work on this project includes fitting LCC EV’s with air quality monitors so that we can develop a greater level of details of pollution along our roads and develop the mechanism for this to be fed into on-board computers that will use this data to automatically shift to zero emission mode when required.
  • Leeds secured £150,000 in partnership with Dearman Ltd to investigate the potential to reduce the impact of refrigerated transport on air quality in Leeds. The Transport Refrigeration Units (TRU’s) used in such vehicles are usually diesel powered and are not subject to the same regulations as other vehicle engines. This project can demonstrate how NOx emitted from these units can be eradicated from the chilled goods supply chain.
  • Two park and ride sites are already operating successfully in the city, one at Elland Road, that has been extended, and the other at Temple Green. The two sites have saved a total of over 350,000 car journeys into the city to date. A report to progress Stourton Park and Ride will be presented to the executive board in the near future.
  • LCC is working with WYCA to bid for the next round of the Clean Bus Technology Fund, to deliver further improvements to improve bus emissions, with up to £3m available per authority with a focus on ensuring all buses entering Leeds will be fully compliant with CAZ standards.