Leeds’ Clean Air Zone dropped as operators adopt lower emission vehicles

Leeds city council plans to drop its Clean Air Zone proposal, arguing that it is no longer required as a result of businesses switching to cleaner vehicles faster than expected. The move follows a joint review by the city council and central government.

According to the study, more than 90 per cent of buses and 80 per cent of heavy goods vehicles driven in the city now use Euro VI engines and therefore wouldn’t be charged if a zone was introduced. Research shows that the newer vehicles emit significantly fewer emissions than older models, especially when travelling at the slower speeds often travelled in urban environments. Nearly half of the city’s licensed taxi and private hire cars are also now hybrid or electric.

Because of the dramatic shift to cleaner vehicles, the review found that air pollution in Leeds on key routes is below legal limits and is not likely to exceed them again—even if traffic were to return to ‘normal’ levels or slightly higher.

The council has written to the government requesting to keep £6.9million of CAZ funding that Leeds had previously secured to ‘lock in’ the full extent of air quality improvements. The money would be used to continue offering grants 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.

James Lewis, deputy leader, Leeds city council and executive board member with responsibility for air quality, says: “Thanks to our city’s collective effort, Leeds residents are breathing air that is cleaner and safer than ever before.

“When we consulted on the CAZ in 2018, we said that we hoped that no one would be charged because businesses would switch to less polluting vehicles before the charging system takes effect. That is exactly what has happened.

“We have achieved the aims of the Clean Air Zone without having to charge a single vehicle. If Leeds were to introduce a CAZ today, only a fraction of vehicles would be affected because the vast majority of businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles than they were just a few years ago.”