Bradford push ahead with 'clean air zone' despite two Yorkshire cities halting similar schemes

Political leaders in Bradford have pushed ahead with plans for a 'clean air zone' to tackle pollution despite both Leeds and Sheffield putting the brakes on similar plans in recent months.

The zone, where polluting vehicles are charged to enter, is expected to be in place in the Bradford district early next year and sees the city join the likes of Bath and Birmingham, both of whom are bringing in clean air zones in 2020.

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The zone is designed to encourage the use of cleaner vehicles by imposing a daily charge for vehicles that do not meet clean air standards.

A view of Bradford city centre. Photo credit: Simon Hulme/ JPIMedia

The proposed charge for non-compliant vans is £9 a day, taxis would pay £12.50 and buses, lorries and coaches would face a £50 charge per day. While private cars would be exempt.

Coun Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Healthy People and Healthy Places, said in a council meeting today, (2 March): "This is something that the district needs, we need to improve the health of our residents... And of our children."

The announcement comes after the Government directed the Labour-run Bradford council in 2018, to draw up plans to bring down nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the district to within legal limits as soon as possible.

Air pollution is linked to around 200 preventable deaths each year and causes the ill-health of other residents in the district - particularly those with respiratory conditions.

Pictured Coun Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Healthy People and Healthy Places.

Bradford has high levels of childhood asthma with 22 per cent of children reporting a wheezing disorder. Hospital admissions for asthma are above national and regional levels and 38 per cent of asthma cases are due to NO2 levels.

The zone, which should be operational by January 2022, will include Bradford city centre, from and including the outer ring road, extending up the Canal Road corridor and Manningham Lane into Shipley and Saltaire.

The landmark Born in Bradford project - one of the largest medical studies in the world, tracking the lives of 12,500 families in the city, has been working alongside the council to gleam a wealth of health data to aid with the project.

Dr Rosie McEachan, the programme director for Born in Bradford, said the 'clean air zone' would have a wealth of health benefits for the local community and the implementation is a "vital tool" to aid with tackling prevalent health inequalities in the city.

Pictured, Leeds' city centre. The much-delayed £29m clean air zone was paused in August and then later scrapped. Photo credit: stock.adobe.com

She highlighted that poor UK air quality contributes to 64,000, early deaths every year and is one of the major causes of early death mortality for our population.

Dr McEachan said: "Air quality is becoming increasingly recognized as one of the biggest threats to public health globally

"It's very clear as a district if we can work together to try to and improve air quality we are going to have a massive impact not only on the health of our community but also the economic well beings of our communities too.

"Happy, healthy families are more productive and contribute greater to the economy but also reduce the health burden to our health service."

It is hoped the zone will encourage vehicle owners to switch to environmentally friendly vehicles, or upgrade their existing vehicles, as cleaner, less-polluting vehicles will be allowed to use the zone for free.

Around £31m of government funding will be available to support businesses affected by the zone. While more than £10m of that has been earmarked to support the taxi trade.

Coun Ferriby, added: "The Government clearly recognises the urgent need to address poor air quality and improve health in parts of the city.

"The Clean Air Fund award is one of the highest announced so far, enabling the council to offer attractive grants to local businesses, and to develop a low emission economy in the city."

Elsewhere in the region a number of local authorities have decided not to go ahead with similar schemes, including Leeds.

In Leeds, the city's much-delayed £29m scheme was paused in August due to unexpectedly positive air quality levels. It was later scrapped because it was no longer necessary, due to businesses switching to cleaner vehicles faster than expected.

And in Sheffield, the proposed clean air zone for the city is under review because of the impact of the pandemic, as air pollution levels dropped by 33 per cent in eight months last year.

The council is also aware many businesses are struggling and says if it can “hold on” to clean air through other measures without resorting to charging people, it will.

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