Plans to charge certain vehicles to enter Sheffield City Centre‘s proposed Clean Air Zone are to be reviewed following recent impacts due to Coronavirus.
Sheffield Clean Air Zone proposals to be reviewed
Recent proposals for a Sheffield Clean Air Zone would have seen certain vehicles being charged for entering the City Centre from early 2021.
However, Sheffield City Council have confirmed a review of the charges — up to £50 per day for the most polluting vehicles — will take now take place in a wider reassessment of plans.
In a statement, the council said: “Our current direction from Government to implement a Clean Air Zone was based on options we submitted in December 2018 which set out proposals for the most appropriate measures at that time. Further analysis and significant consultation on this plan were undertaken in summer 2019. However, the situation has changed significantly and unexpectedly due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and we have seen drop in air pollution of up to 33% in January to August of this year compared to the same period in 2019.”
“We know that air pollution disproportionately harms the poorest, most deprived areas. Action to improve the air we all breathe in Sheffield is essential and everyone has a role to play. During the Coronavirus pandemic we have seen improvements in air quality and we want to sustain them.
“However we are reviewing our plans for the Clean Air Zone in light of Coronavirus. If we can hold onto clean air by introducing other measures without resorting to charging people, we believe this is the best way forward. Alternative measures include incentives for upgrading vehicles, better provision for walking and cycling, and cleaner public transport.
Bob Johnson Cabinet Member for Transport and Development
Clean Air Zone impact on business to be reassessed
Sheffield City Council are taking into account the impacts on businesses going forwards as a ‘new normal’ is established.
Their statement continues: “We recognise that many businesses and jobs are under unprecedented stress arising from the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the same time, following on from the lockdown required to control the spread of the virus, there have been a number of changes to travel behaviour which has led to improvements in air quality. The current situation is dramatically different to the one in which our proposals were originally developed.
“In finalising our clean air plans we will review the possible impacts of COVID-19 on businesses, transport, and air quality. This will help us decide if the same action is needed, or if changes can be made to be successful in reducing air pollution for the long term.”
“Many of the businesses who will need to upgrade their vehicles in order to be compliant with the CAZ are focusing quite rightly on controlling the spread of the virus, and working to keep people safe, local people in jobs and businesses afloat. If they cannot afford to upgrade to cleaner vehicles, they may end up paying to pollute and we will all still breathe dirty air.
“With the right clean air plan and crucially, with the right funding from the Government, we can reduce pollution in a fair way, and in a way that is aligned with our zero-carbon goals.”Bob Johnson Cabinet Member for Transport and Development
Clean Air Zone review welcomed by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce have welcomed the plans to review the current Clean Air Zone plans.
The Chamber would like to work with Sheffield City Council on a revised proposal, taking into account the impacts and learnings of the current pandemic.
“Given the changed circumstances as a result of Covid-19 it is right to look again at the best way to improve air quality across Sheffield. We welcome the review into the alternative ways we could meet the required air pollution reductions. We look forward to working with the Council to think through the impacts that Covid-19 has had on business, transport and travel patterns, and how we can address air quality without placing an undue burden on local businesses, many of who, are facing unprecedented challenges”Tom Sutton, Head of Policy & Representation at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
Sheffield Taxi Trade Association ‘encouraged’ by the Clean Air Zone review
Additionally, Sheffield Taxi Trade association have issued a statement regarding the review of proposals.
The taxi industry would potentially be hit quite hard by the previous proposals and have been lobbying the council for changes.
Taxis would have faced a £10 per day charge for entering the city centre had drivers not upgraded to exempted ultra low emissions (hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell) or Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) vehicles before the plans are introduced.
“It’s encouraging and welcoming to learn that the council are looking at alternative measures that will help achieve a Clean Air Zone.
“We believe that this a step in the right direction and the council’s decision is right and we wholeheartedly support their efforts in trying to achieve and maintain a clean air zone that can and has had immeasurable benefits for all.
“Drivers amongst other key workers have been identified as individuals most at risk of polluted air, as taxi drivers we are very keen to work with the council to initiate the new vision that incorporates a working strategy that revolves around alternative strategies which avoid penalising an already struggling trade.”Hafeas Rehman, Chairperson of Sheffeld Taxi Trade Association
What is the Sheffield Clean Air Zone?
The Sheffield Clean Air Zone is proposed for Sheffield City Centre. The area covered would include all of the city centre to the Inner Ring Road, including Park Square Roundabout and the nearby A61/Parkway junction.
Aims for the Clean Air Zone include reducing emissions and pollution in the city, which is estimated to contribute to around 500 deaths per year in Sheffield.
Studies have shown the biggest cause of pollution to be transport, particularly diesel vehicles.
What were the previous Sheffield Clean Air Zone proposals?
Current proposals — that are to be reviewed — would have seen the introduction of a ‘Category C’ Clean Air Zone in early 2021.
Lorries, vans, buses and taxis would be charged for driving in the city centre if they didn’t meet specific emissions guidelines.
Charges had been proposed at £10 per day for LGVs and Taxis, rising to £50 for HGVs, coaches and buses. Exemptions would exist for specific low emissions vehicle classes.
Private cars had also been excluded from any charges. Studies have shown that private cars make up around 80% of traffic, but ‘only’ contribute around 50% of the pollution.
Final decision on Sheffield Clean Air Zone will be made following a better understanding of COVID-19 impacts
Sheffield City Council’s statement ends: “We will only make a decision on the final Clean Air Plans when we have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19. We are also confirming that it will include considering alternative approaches to charging non-compliant vehicles within the city centre as part of its contribution to the Clean Air Zone review.
“We will continue to work with Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit to develop the final plans and agree when it will be delivered.”
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