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Leeds to introduce CAZ, but cars and light vans escape entry charges

Leeds to introduce CAZ, but cars and light vans escape entry charges

Leeds City Council is to press ahead with the introduction of a Clean Air Zone from 6 January, 2020 with charges targeted at HGVs, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles, but cars and light vans will be excluded from any charge.
The Clean Air Zone will cover around 55% of the city with the worst polluting HGVs, buses and coaches charged £50 per day to enter and taxis and private hire vehicles £12.50 a day or £50 a week (only available to Leeds’ licensed drivers). Charges will apply to vehicles that fail to meet Euro6/VI diesel and Euro4 petrol emission standards. The Clean Air Zone will be monitored using a network of purpose-built cameras.  

However, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) claimed that the Council was “pricing trucks out of Leeds” and that such a move was “not the way forward”  

The Council is requesting £27 million in funding from the government’s £220 million Clean Air Fund to support local businesses to upgrade or retrofit affected vehicles through grants and interest-free loans.  

A further £13 million is being requested in funding from the government’s £255 million Implementation Fund to cover costs associated with the infrastructure and operation of the zone.  

The proposals come after the government instructed the council to outline plans to tackle air pollution in Leeds after identifying some parts of the city as being likely to fail legal air quality levels by 2020.  

Evidence shows that spending time in areas with high levels of air pollution can worsen asthma symptoms, damage lung function and reduce life expectancy.  

Cllr James Lewis, executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment, said: “Like more than three quarters of residents, we believe that tackling air pollution should be a priority for Leeds. 

“The plans we’re putting forward have been carefully developed following months of consultation with thousands of residents and local businesses to ensure they are the best plans for Leeds. They will improve air quality within the shortest possible time, tackling air pollution and protecting the health of everyone in the city. 

“A key element of these proposals is the support we’re proposing to help affected local businesses transition to cleaner vehicles which avoid charges. We believe that it is important to help local businesses in order for the zone to most successfully reduce pollution.  

“We will therefore be asking the government for around £27 million from the national Clean Air Fund to enable us to help businesses transition to cleaner vehicles which avoid charges.   “We look forward to continuing working closely with the government to ensure the successful and timely delivery of the Clean Air Charging Zone in Leeds".  

The Clean Air Zone decision has come despite considerable consultation between the Council and fleet industry representatives. The BVRLA joined with the Council and the Energy Savings Trust earlier this year in hosting a round table to discuss air quality issues and proposals for a Leeds Clean Air Zone. At this meeting the BVRLA and its members outlined a range of alternatives to a charging Clean Air Zone and ways of reducing the impact of a zone if introduced.  

Throughout its engagement with Leeds and other cities, the BVRLA said it had made it clear that Clean Air Zones could be an important tool in tackling air quality issues in heavily polluted areas, but any introduction must be balanced against the potential impact they might have on the wider economy and people’s quality of life.  

The BVRLA said that the Council had given some consideration to the arguments and suggestions made by the BVRLA as it had halved the government’s recommended £100 fee for non-compliant HGVs and would offer an initial ‘sunset clause’ that provides a Clean Air Zone charge exemption for hauliers that could prove that they had got a Euro VI emission truck on order.  

Nonetheless, the BVRLA said it believed that more action was desperately required to support the industry.  

Chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “Our members will be on hand to rent or lease compliant HGVs to many local fleets that are struggling to find compliant vehicles, but it is doubtful whether there will be enough Euro VI truck capacity to meet every need.

“The decision to charge hauliers is short sighted and very frustrating. It is an extra burden on operators who will have to pass costs on to the consumer. 

“Unlike cars and vans, HGV operators have no option to go electric. Operators will face huge costs in replacing non-compliant vehicles with the latest trucks that meet Euro VI emission standards - there are no retrofit solutions available at present.  

“We are particularly concerned about smaller businesses, many of whom operate on extremely tight margins and will not be able to upgrade their fleet in time. According to Traffic Commissioner data, 54,800 SMEs were involved in road haulage last year and 52% of lorries operate in fleets of less than 20. These are exactly the type of businesses we need to support with incentives, not penalise with unavoidable charges.”  

Earlier this year the BVRLA joined with the Road Haulage Association, Freight Transport Association and National Franchised Dealers Association in meeting Transport Minister Jesse Norman and Environment Minister Therese Coffey to share a six-point plan for Clean Air Zones.  

The plan - ‘The Way Forward’ - set out recommendations the four trade bodies believed could help improve air quality whilst protecting haulage from punitive charges and bureaucracy. It called for consistent Clean Air Zone operating standards, smarter use of road space, and a phased approach supporting the transition to cleaner vehicles that did not put operators out of business.