Sheffield City Council leader Terry Fox insists financial support for Clean Air Zone 'one of most generous' in country
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Councillor Terry Fox said the council had also successfully lobbied the government to postpone fees for polluting vans and black cabs until June, four months after the Clean Air Zone scheme goes live. The cost-of-living crisis was at the forefront of his mind, he said.
Sheffield City Council was offered £24m in 2020 for a Clean Air Zone, some £21m is to upgrade vehicles with £3m for signs and cameras.
The scheme was initially delayed due to the pandemic and then again in 2022. The council is now ‘subject to a legal duty’ to introduce it in February 2023.
It has also been criticised for excluding cars while charging vehicles often on ‘essential’ journeys such as buses.
Greens leader councillor Douglas Johnson said: “It was incredibly frustrating to see this delayed by Labour councillors who now chair the transport, regeneration and climate change committee. The Clean Air Zone should have been operational by the summer of 2022 with grants paid out. Instead, we will now see polluting vehicles exempt until June 2023.”
But councillors Fox and Johnson agree the city’s air is too dirty.
Coun Fox said: “This is about the critical need to do all we can to protect current and future generations from the damaging effects of exposure to NO2 emissions. The threat of permanent damage to children’s lungs, strokes, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and more is real and of great concern. We have a duty to do all we can to prevent this.
“We are committed to cleaning up the city’s air but doing so fairly for hardworking people. We have to enact a Clean Air Zone but we have secured one of the most generous support packages in the country to help people make the required upgrades, and provided as much time as government will allow us for people to make the upgrade to a compliant vehicle.”
Officials estimate between 71,000 and 100,000 vehicles will enter the Clean Air Zone each day and about two per cent will be charged. Fees for vans and cabs are £10-a-day, buses and lorries £50.
The boundary follows the inner ring road. Any surpluses must be reinvested in other clean air measures in the city.
Air pollution contributes to 500 deaths a year in Sheffield and the biggest cause is transport, especially diesel vehicles, the council says.
Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said the forecasts for charging drivers and income were 'extreme'. The Lib Dems did not support the inner ring road being chargeable, he added.
He also criticised the delays and the short period between financial support going live on December 12 and the start of the Clean Air Zone in February.
He said: “It's not the scheme we wanted and we hope businesses are okay and people continue to come to Sheffield. If they don't, it should be amended.”