Leeds City Council has stopped financial support for its planned clean air zone (CAZ) while it conducts an ‘urgent’ review with central Government into the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the city’s air pollution levels.
The pandemic and the resulting drop in traffic has seen pollution levels fall ‘significantly’ in Leeds, according to the council, and it is now questionable whether pollution will ever reach illegal levels.
Councillor James Lewis, deputy leader for Leeds City Council, said: “If the city’s air pollution is expected to stay below legal limits then we will no longer have the support of the government to introduce a charging clean air zone.
“Given this uncertainty, our financial support will continue to be paused until the review is complete and we have received further direction.
“I recognise that at an already uncertain time, this latest update will be frustrating for many businesses. However, I would like to ask drivers and operators for their continued patience whilst we carry out this urgent review.
“I hope to be able to clarify the future of the Leeds CAZ in the Autumn.
“Tackling the climate emergency and protecting the health of everyone in Leeds remain priorities for this council.
“Regardless of any future decision on the charging zone we will continue to deliver schemes that enable sustainable travel and the shift to zero emission vehicles."
He added that local air quality had already been improving, prior to the pandemic, with many of the city’s buses, taxis, private hire and businesses now driving cleaner vehicles.
The council has also accelerated highways schemes that will reduce traffic and create more space for cyclists and pedestrians.
It is investing in public transport infrastructure as part of its £270 million Connecting Leeds transport programme and has introduced policies and schemes to support the uptake of electric and low emission vehicles.