Leeds Council ruled out introducing London-style ultra-low emission zone

Leeds City Council has ruled out introducing a London-style ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ).

Councillors from all parties unanimously voted in favour of a single motion on the issue on Wednesday.

London’s ULEZ, which charges the drivers of some high-emission cars for travelling in parts of the capital, has been politically controversial.

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While supporters of the scheme highlight the effect it’s having on air quality, critics claim it’s financially punishing ordinary people.

Leeds aerial shot. Credit Benjamin Elliot/Unsplash  Leeds aerial shot. Credit Benjamin Elliot/Unsplash
Leeds aerial shot. Credit Benjamin Elliot/Unsplash

In Leeds, the authority’s Conservative Opposition had tabled a motion calling on the Labour administration to rule out bringing in an ULEZ at Wednesday’s full council meeting.

Although competing papers were initially tabled by Labour and other parties, leaders eventually settled on the wording of a single motion.

This ruled out an ULEZ “in principle”, but added that the council “also believes that all Leeds citizens have the right to breathe clean air”.

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It also committed to publishing a report setting out future actions to improve air quality.

Conservative group leader Alan Lamb told the meeting: “Our position is clear. We think it’s hard enough already to get round the city centre without alternatives for people, particularly in outer areas, like (my ward of) Wetherby.

“If we want people from all parts of the city to come to the city centre, we need to have a means for them to do it.

“It’s a balance between cleaning the quality of the air and making the city safe for everyone. But all the evidence is charging people more taxes is not the way to achieve that. There are far better ways to achieve that.”

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Under government direction, Leeds had been due to introduce a clean air zone in 2020, which would have seen charges for buses, lorries and taxis that fell short of emissions standards.

But the policy was dropped after air quality levels improved sufficiently.

Labour’s Mohammed Rafique, executive member for the environment, said that local pollution had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

He told the meeting: “We remain committed to making sure we don’t see any decline in future.

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“We’ll ensure people have a choice when it comes to their journey, whether it’s walking, cycling, the bus, train, taxi or their own cars.

“We recognise that some people want to or need to drive.”

But stressing Labour’s support for better air quality, he added: “Here in Leeds we would always put the health of our residents first.”

Last month, West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin ruled out bringing in an ULEZ at regional level, saying that the responsibility for air quality lay with individual councils.