Clean Air Zone: Sheffield Council faces ‘serious risk’ as it delays charge until 2023

Sheffield Council said the earliest it will be able to implement its Clean Air Zone is now 2023, two years after the government’s deadline which imposes a “serious risk” of legal challenges and losing funding.

Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 4:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 5:09 pm

The update on the scheme – which will charge drivers of the most polluting taxis, vans, buses, coaches and lorries to drive in the city centre – was buried more than half way down a council document after repeatedly and recently telling the public it would be implemented by the end of this year.

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More than 500 people a year die early in Sheffield as a result of air pollution and the city has exceeded legal levels of nitrogen dioxide since 2010.

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Car belching out exhaust fumes. Sheffield Council's Clean Air Zone won't be in place until 2023 'at the earliest'

This is why the government ordered the council to reduce its emissions to legal levels as soon as possible and “by 2021 at the latest”.

This latest delay means the city will not be able to achieve legal compliance until at least 2023.

Near the final pages of the document, council officers said: “Compliance with that deadline has not so far proved possible as set out within the report. The authority’s failure to submit the full business case and implement the mandated CAZ charging scheme within the prescribed deadlines imposes a serious risk to the council and gives rise to potential legal challenges by way of judicial review. There is also the risk that any grant funding already provided to SCC such funds could be recovered by the government, by way of clawback.”

The report outlined the council’s full business case for the scheme which will be submitted to the government in April for consideration.

Map of Sheffield Clean Air Zone. Sheffield Council has boosted its support packages for the Clean Air Zone after business owners said they will avoid the city centre instead of upgrading vehicles.

When the scheme is finally implemented, drivers of vehicles more polluting than the Euro 6 diesel or Euro 4 petrol emission standard will have to pay a daily charge to drive in the city centre.

This will be £10 a day for vans and taxis and £50 a day for coaches, buses and lorries.

The government gave just under £24 million to deliver Sheffield and Rotherham’s Clean Air Plans.

Why has Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone been delayed?

The CAZ was first announced in 2018. It was delayed in 2020 due to Covid-19 and a new date of 2022 was given.

Commenting on this latest delay, Tom Finnegan-Smith, head of strategic transport, sustainability and infrastructure, said: “The early 2023 ‘go live’ date for the CAZ takes into account up to date timescales associated with the installation of infrastructure, mobilisation and testing to ensure a successful launch.

“The current timescales represent the shortest possible time for implementation and therefore the shortest possible timescales for achieving compliant levels of air quality (nitrogen dioxide) across the city.

“Our Clean Air Zone plans have been subject to review through our ongoing liaison with Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit and, subject to the approval of our plans, we expect that a further ministerial direction will be provided to us which sets out updated timescales for action and compliance.

“The programme is subject to regular review and we will be in a position to announce a specific launch date later in the year.”