Plans could see diesel drivers face ‘pollution penalty’ in city centres

Drivers of diesel cars could have to pay more in road tax or face additional levies to travel into city centres
Drivers of diesel cars could have to pay more in road tax or face additional levies to travel into city centres
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A congestion charge-style fee for diesel car drivers could be introduced in Yorkshire in a bid to tackle air pollution.

Sheffield is one of 15 UK cities which are understood to be discussing proposals to mirror a scheme that is being considered for London.

The capital’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has revealed an £11.50 daily fee is set to be enforced in London in an effort to curb pollution as part of the city’s ultra-low emission zone, due to be introduced in 2020.

Mr Johnson said: “Improving London’s air quality is an urgent challenge. It affects the health and well-being of all Londoners, and it simply cannot be put on hold.”

Sheffield City Council’s cabinet member for environment, recycling and street scene, Coun Jack Scott, confirmed that work is underway for a similar scheme in the South Yorkshire city.

He said: “Air quality in Sheffield is improving in some areas but like many other cities we know this is a very serious issue and we need to see future improvements.

“We completed a feasibility study last year looking into the possibility of a low emission zone. Any potential benefits should be balanced against the problems it could cause. All consideration and assessment of a wide range of issues will be met before we come to any decision.”

But Leeds City Council said it was not looking to adopt the idea, despite the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warning that unless action is taken, the West Yorkshire city would face dangerous levels of pollution from vehicle exhausts by 2030.

Instead of the charges, the council is looking to park and ride schemes, electric charging points for cars and cycle schemes to tackle the issue.

The director of public health at Leeds City Council, Dr Ian Cameron, said: “Locally, the council is taking action in a number of areas to reduce pollution. We are trialling refuse vehicles that run on biomethane gas, along with electric vehicles... testing environmentally-friendly hybrids and have recently installed 10 electric charging points in our Woodhouse Lane car park.

“This all complements initiatives such as the Cycle Super-Highway linking Leeds and Bradford and other efforts to increase Leeds’s commitment to being a cycling-friendly city.

“Less reliance on cars and more cycling and walking help not only reduce pollution but also increase health benefits.”

In York, council bosses said there were also no plans to introduce the charges. York Council became the first ever local authority in the UK to adopt a Low Emission Strategy in 2012, which aims to tackle one of greatest challenges currently faced by the city.

The strategy looks at tackling and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases whilst protecting residents from local air pollutants.

Diesel exhaust fumes have been linked to a range of illnesses and long-term health conditions, from heart disease to diabetes. Pollution in York had been linked to an estimated 158 premature deaths every year, and the council has unveiled a plan to cut car use by five per cent in just three years by promoting alternative modes of transport, including walking, cycling and buses.

Motorists had been encouraged to opt for driving a diesel car by previous governments, as the fuel was thought to contribute less to global warming through better fuel efficiency.