A Yorkshire city with illegal levels of air pollution has opened a public consultation into plans for charging the worst-offending vehicles to enter parts of the area.
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Sheffield City Council yesterday said it was starting a conversation with residents and businesses about a new Clean Air Zone proposed to start in 2021.
The plans, established after the government ordered major cities across the UK to improve air quality, encourages the most polluting vehicles - taxis, buses, vans, coaches and heavy goods vehicles – to upgrade to electric, hybrid or cleaner engines.
Under plans now being put forward, there would be a pollution charge for those vehicles – the 20 per cent which cause 50 per cent of the harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions – driving into Sheffield’s proposed Clean Air Zone.
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The council is seeking £50m of government funding to help drivers upgrade their vehicles and the council says it wants to work with taxi and van drivers, as well as every other fleet affected.
To avoid paying the pollution charge, taxis will need to be ultra-low emission vehicles – either electric, petrol-hybrid, hydrogen or liquid petroleum gas powered. Buses, coaches, vans and HGVs will need to be electric or have the cleanest standard of diesel engine.
Private vehicles are not currently affected by charge plans.
Coun Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Planning and Development at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is the start of a vitally important conversation for the city and we want everyone to have their say on the clean air zone and the support that is available.
"We know air pollution damages the health of us all, especially the very young and the very old, but we need to balance this with how we can support drivers with the cost of reducing their emissions.
"The facts are clear, taxi drivers, van drivers and other motorists are among the most at risk from breathing in dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide and we want to protect them and everyone else who lives in our fantastic city.
"We accept these are difficult conversations but they need to happen so we can improve our air quality.”
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Sheffield, along with Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, has illegal levels of air pollution.
The council said that in Sheffield alone it contributes to 500 deaths a year, and recent evidence has shown that exposure to Nitrogen Dioxide has a lasting impact on development of children’s lungs.
Living in the worst areas for air pollution carries the same health risks as passive smoking, said the authority.
Leeds City Council has already announced its roll-out of a Clean Air Zone, with some vehicles to be charged £50 a day for entering a specific central area, though its intended start date of January 6 next year has been delayed.
To view the consultation, which lasts eight weeks, visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/cleanair