Sheffield Clean Air Zone: Removal firm owner worried at effect of charge on his business

The owner of a Sheffield removal firm is joining a protest tomorrow over the introduction of Clean Air Zone charges on city centre roads that he says will hit his business hard.

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Sheffield City Council is implementing the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) from February 27. All heavy and light goods vehicles, vans, buses, coaches and taxis that drive within the inner ring road and city centre will be charged if their vehicles do not meet emissions standards.

Charges run at £10 per day for vans, LGVs and taxis and £50 per day for coaches, buses and lorries or HGVs. Vehicles are identified by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and the council have already started sending out advice letters to drivers, using the system.

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A protest has been called at noon tomorrow, Saturday, February 4, meeting at Pinstone Street by a Facebook group, Campaign against chargeable clean air zone Sheffield.

Steve Rupik from Arrow Removals in Sheffield is joining a protest against the Sheffield Clean Air Zone charges coming into force at the end of this monthSteve Rupik from Arrow Removals in Sheffield is joining a protest against the Sheffield Clean Air Zone charges coming into force at the end of this month
Steve Rupik from Arrow Removals in Sheffield is joining a protest against the Sheffield Clean Air Zone charges coming into force at the end of this month

Steve Rupik of Arrow Removals on Petre Street, Burngreave intends to join the protest. His family firm has been trading since 1997 and he said they moved to the Unity Works on Petre Street three years ago to be based just outside the city centre.

Steve said: “We’re a small family business. My son and son-in-law work with us as well as other staff. We run HGVs and 3.5-ton lorries.” He said his vehicles are older but pass MOT emissions tests.

‘Ridiculous’

“We travel all over the country,” said Steve. “We already have to put up with this in London – the congestion charge, LEZ (low emission zone), ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) and extended ULEZ.”

Sheffield Clean Air Zone comes into force on February 27, 2023 - a protest has been called for Saturday, February 4Sheffield Clean Air Zone comes into force on February 27, 2023 - a protest has been called for Saturday, February 4
Sheffield Clean Air Zone comes into force on February 27, 2023 - a protest has been called for Saturday, February 4
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Steve described the inclusion of the inner ring road as “ridiculous” as it was designed to help traffic avoid the city centre. He has had to sit down with his drivers to work out lengthier routes to avoid it.

Steve said that he had trouble in Bristol in December, where he paid the CAZ charge but got a penalty notice because the system did not register it properly and he had to complain to get it put right. That involved waiting 53 minutes on hold on the phone.

“Using the HGV is going to add £50 to customers’ bills or it will come out of our profit,” said Steve. “Diesel is already silly high. We are already taxed as part of our road fund licence, now they’re taxing us once again for going into the city centre.

“All it’s going to do is drive traffic into the suburbs. We’re going to have to go up and down Rutland Road, Walkley, Crookes and Manchester Road and that way, rather than just down Petre Street, the ring road and ‘Supertram hill’.

Removal firm owner Steve Rupik said that the Clean Air Zone charges in the city centre will push more traffic into suburban areas like CrookesRemoval firm owner Steve Rupik said that the Clean Air Zone charges in the city centre will push more traffic into suburban areas like Crookes
Removal firm owner Steve Rupik said that the Clean Air Zone charges in the city centre will push more traffic into suburban areas like Crookes
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“All the schools at Walkley and Crookes are going to have increased pollution. Our truck not going through the centre isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference, it will just be 10 miles down the road.

Decimated

Sheffield City Council over the last few years has gone about taking the trees away which help get rid of carbon emissions, building shopping centres away from the city centre at Meadowhall, Meadowhead and Crystal Peaks and making it so expensive to park in the centre.

“I’ve lived in Sheffield all my life and I can’t believe how it’s been decimated. It’s happening all over.”

Steve is worried that Sheffield will bring in 15-minute neighbourhoods like in Oxford, where traffic filters will monitor drivers who will only be allowed to go outside their local zone 100 times a year before they are charged. He said that families travelling across the city to help elderly relatives could easily do 10 journeys a week.

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“The public transport in Sheffield is not fit for purpose,” said Steve. “It’s great in London where they’ve got buses, the Tube, taxis everywhere, it’s not a problem. We’ve got a tram that just goes to two or three places and buses that are unreliable.”

The red line no-stopping routes proposed for Abbeydale Road and Ecclesall Road are another worry because Steve does not know how they will be able to do removals along those roads if they are not allowed to park between 7am and 7pm.

Like a lot of objectors. Steve thinks the CAZ charges are “all down to money making. What are they going to spend it on? What can they actually do for air pollution?”

Expensive

He said he had been offered a loan of an electric vehicle for a week by the council but laughed when he saw it. “This was slightly bigger than my car. I’d love to try one but there’s not any trucks that are available.”

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He said the electric vehicle was not even big enough to deliver boxes to customers to use for moving house.

The firm has an 18-year-old HGV. To replace it with one that is Euro6 emissions compliant would cost £60-70,000 and the council is offering a grant of £8,000 so it’s too expensive to consider.

Steve said: “Will we survive? I don’t know. We’ve been going for 26 years, we will do what we can do. We’ve gone through the recession and floods and other things.

“Touch wood we should do but it isn’t going to be easy and it’s not going to make an iota of difference to clean air. I’d be backing it if it was going to make a difference – my daughter’s got asthma and I’ve got a cough.

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“People are going to be sat in traffic more. The suburbs are going to be getting it worst in tight streets where the air isn’t flowing as much. Their kids are going to be breathing it in.”

Steve said he intends to be at the protest, adding: “If there’s any protests driving around, I’ll be doing that as well.”