Leeds City Council could scrap its planned Clean Air Zone (CAZ) if levels of toxic air pollution remain within legal limits.
The West Yorkshire authority had originally announced that the CAZ would be implemented in September this year, but in the first weeks of the pandemic it asked the Government for permission delay it until at least 2021 to help local businesses.
Pedestrianised Briggate in Leeds City Centre
Its current position is that the CAZ will not be implemented until January 2021 at the earliest. However it has now said it is carrying out a review with the Government, which may see the plan abandoned altogether and has paused payments to businesses in the meantime.
Deputy leader James Lewis said: ‘As a result of the coronavirus pandemic we have seen pollution levels fall significantly due to the quieter roads. Leeds residents now breathe air that is considerably cleaner and safer than just a few months ago.
‘Coronavirus has led to big changes but, thanks to the city’s collective action, local air quality has actually been improving for some time.
‘Many of our buses, taxis, private hire and businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles and we’ve accelerated highways schemes that will reduce traffic and create more space for cyclists and pedestrians. We’re investing in public transport infrastructure as part of our £270m Connecting Leeds transport programme and have introduced policies and schemes to support the uptake of electric and low emission vehicles.
‘Leeds City Council is now working closely with central government to review the long term impact that the pandemic and these other factors will have on the city’s air quality to understand whether pollution will ever reach illegal levels.
‘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. I hope to be able to clarify the future of the Leeds CAZ in the Autumn.’