Sheffield Clean Air Zone: Some drivers could pay £50 a day to use city centre roads under pollution reduction plans

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Sheffield Council will implement a Clean Air Zone from next year, meaning polluting buses, taxis, vans, coaches, minibuses and lorries will need to pay a daily charge to drive in the city centre.

Council leaders are expected to approve the plans next week following a review of the impacts of Covid-19 on business, transport and air quality to see if a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) was still needed.

Air pollution contributes to 500 early deaths a year in Sheffield and parts of the city have exceeded legal limits of nitrogen dioxide since 2010, council officers said.

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As a result, Sheffield was told by the Government to reach legal limits in the shortest time possible.

Buses in the city centre.Buses in the city centre.
Buses in the city centre.

Plans for a CAZ were first announced in 2018 but the council delayed implementing it due to Covid-19, saying the situation in 2020 was “dramatically different” to the one in which original proposals were developed.

In a council report published today, council officers said the zone will cover the same area as the original proposals: the inner ring road and city centre, including Park Square and the A61 / Parkway junction.

Taxis, minibuses and LGVs that do not meet the emission standards will be charged £10 a day and coaches, buses and HGVs will be charged £50 a day.

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It will be enforced using automatic number plate recognition cameras.

Drivers of private vehicles will not be charged at this time. The council said this was because they make up 80 percent of road traffic but contribute 50 percent of pollution whereas buses, HGVs and taxis are responsible for half of Sheffield’s air pollution but make up only 20 percent of traffic.

Emissions standards for the CAZ are the same as the original proposals with the exception of taxis which were going to be charged unless they were ultra-low emission (such as electric) or liquid petroleum gas but they will now only need to have a Euro 6 engine.

The measure is expected to reduce Sheffield’s air pollution to legal levels within a few years but this will not necessarily mean the air is safe.

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Just under £24 million was given to deliver Sheffield and Rotherham’s Clean Air Plans. Of that, £3.5 million was allocated from the implementation fund, which will be used for setting up the charging zone and road schems, and £20.4 million from the Clean Air Fund, which will be used to help drivers upgrade.

The council said the CAZ is a standalone scheme that will be funded by Government grants and money collected through the charge.

Any money made through charging will go into measures tackling pollution.

A consultation on the proposals is expected to start in November.

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Both Bath and Birmingham already have clean air zones and Portsmouth is due to start charging for its zone from November 29 this year.

Bath’s CAZ falls under Class C, the same as Sheffield’s, and Birmingham’s falls under Class D, which includes all the same vehicles as Sheffield with the addition of private cars and the option of including motorcycles.

There are other cities planning to introduce clean air zones over the next couple of years.