Clean Air Zone: Sheffield furniture firm may close shop causing job losses because of CAZ charges
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David Martin is the co-owner of family firm Martin’s Furniture Centres, which has shops on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield and in Bawtry Road, Wickersley, Rotherham. He fears that the impact of Clean Air Zone charges and red lines in front of his shop stopping parking for 12 hours a day will see the shop close and eight staff lose their jobs.
Under the Sheffield City Council Clean Air Zone coming into force on February 27, some heavy and light goods vehicles, vans, buses, coaches and taxis that drive within the inner ring road and city centre will be charged if the vehicle does not meet emissions standards.
Charges for bigger vehicles are £50 a day and smaller vans and taxis will be charged £10 a day.
The red line zones proposed for the bus lanes on Abbeydale and Ecclesall Roads, banning all parking or stopping betweeen 7am and 7pm, are still under discussion by the council.
David said: “We can’t get a new van – for us to get a new van it’s £41,000. The council have offered £4,500.”
‘Nail in coffin’
He said he has looked at new vans that meet Euro6 emissions levels which would avoid charges but only Ford has the type the firm uses which have higher roofs and there is a two-year waiting list. The firm buys and sells office furniture, which David said is the firm’s “bread and butter”, as well as household and antique furniture.
The firm runs five vans, said David, and tends to change them every three years: “I have got one new van which falls into the (no charge) category. We only had that because my other van got stolen. That cost me £38,000 last year. That has gone up to £41,000.”
He said: “If it comes in, I seriously think this shop will have to go and about eight staff will have to go.” That would just leave family members and they would move the business to Wickersley.
“I’d lose a big chunk of business,”added David. He said bringing in the red lines zone will make that closure decision inevitable.
“It will hit the nail in the coffin if customers can’t park out here. Unless we start working the night shift, no-one can unload our vans. You couldn’t even charge up an EV then.
“A lot of our custom comes off the front of the shop. We want people to drive up, see something, pull up, load up and go. That’s what’s happened since we’ve been here.
“A lot of antique dealers and people in our business have got old vans because they can’t afford new vans. We get dealers who are British, from Belgium and even one man from Thailand.”
David said those dealers would be put off by the CAZ charges or possibly caught out by them without knowing how to avoid the city centre to get to Abbeydale Road.
In order to avoid the charge, he would have to travel from Wickersley via the Manor, “past all the schools in my ‘very polluting’ van – it has passed all its MOT emissions tests but can’t go into Sheffield”.
He pointed out that he could do the same journey by any car with no charges made.
David said that the firm, which was started by his grandfather, has been based on the same spot in Abbeydale Road since 1974. He said it is the leading secondhand office furniture firm in Sheffield.
He has been speaking to council staff since last August to find out what support is available or whether it is possible to get any exemptions. He said that staff have been very helpful.
David was annoyed to hear that Leeds has shelved its CAZ charging plan because it says it doesn’t need one now and Manchester may follow suit. “What’s the difference between them and us?” he asked.
“I’d like to see the statistics – if Leeds is saying the air has got cleaner since lockdown, I’d like to see them since before lockdown to now and see what air pollution levels are.”
He also wants to know what the council is doing to clean up other sources of pollution in the CAZ area and was annoyed to hear that the Fargate Container Park was being run by the council on a diesel generator.
Another objector, Lindsey Knott, says the decision doesn’t have a direct impact on her but said businesses will be passing on the cost of the CAZ charges to customers. Like David, she is a member of a Facebook group, Campaign against chargeable clean air zone Sheffield, that organised a protest last Saturday.
She said: “People are massively opposed to these plans. We’ve tried to make our voices heard by councillors. People still don’t even know it’s happening – how did they come to a decision without consultation with voters? Aren’t they supposed to work on our behalf?”
Lindsey, who lives near Bradfield, says that she checks air quality in the city centre and has done so for a long time because she has asthma and the air is rated good. Like others, she points out that drivers avoiding the charges will simply spread fumes elsewhere. She believes congestion is a bigger problem on air quality.
“It will have a massive impact on the self-employed and local businesses,” said Lindsey. “People can’t afford to buy new vehicles – it’s £20,000 for an average upgrade and the average grant is £2,500, that’s nowhere near covering independent traders’ costs.”
*To find out what types of vehicles aren’t CAZ compliant, go to the Sheffield City Council website at https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/campaigns/clean-air-zone-sheffield#VehicleCharged
To find out about financial support packages on offer from the council, go to https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/campaigns/clean-air-zone-sheffield#FinancialSupport