Wickes Sheffield: DIY store's closure sparjks anger from Sheffield motorists over Clean Air Zone

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Sheffield’s drivers have voiced their anger after a member of staff at Wickes claimed their Sheffield store is closing because of the city’s Clean Air Zone.

Staff at the trade suppliers on Moore Street have told The Star the store will shut for good on August 16.

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But they also feel the closure is directly linked to the Clean Air Zone rolled out in February 2023, with one worker claiming business “dropped like a stone” as soon as it came into effect.

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“We’re sat right in the middle of it, and white vans traders don’t want to pay £10 a visit,” a staff member told The Star. “It’s been very difficult to keep it going.”

Wickes has not responded to calls for a comment for over a week.

The Clean Air Zone charges older diesel vans and taxis £10-a-day to travel on, or within, the inner ring road in a bid to drive down nitrogen dioxide levels in the city. Older coaches, buses and lorries are charged £50.

Now, Sheffield motorists have vented their anger at the CAZ.

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The Sheffield Clean Air Zone enclosing the city’s ring road was rolled out in February 2023.The Sheffield Clean Air Zone enclosing the city’s ring road was rolled out in February 2023.
The Sheffield Clean Air Zone enclosing the city’s ring road was rolled out in February 2023.

One local businesswoman, Leanne Carr, wrote: “My business has paid thousands in charges and fines. I’m new to the area so not confident of the actual charge zone. Signs are tiny and covered by trees etc. Council are so unhelpful. We now have to turn business down in the centre!”

“I just avoid the area at all costs,” writes Star reader Ian Whitehorne. “I mean, who has a ring road and then penalises motorists who use it?”

It comes after motorcycle dealers Via Moto and SMC - on Shoreham Street and Walker Street respectively - announced this year it would be leaving the city centre as well.

Via Moto’s owner Matthew Gilder told The Star in June how lorries delivering motorbikes and parts up to four times a week, and a valeting firm that came weekly, all paid the £50 charge and passed it on to them. It came on top of a rise in interest rates, soaring energy bills and a difficult market, he added.

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“So sad to see this,” writes Mike Nicholson. “I used Wickes for many years until clean air zone was introduced. I can no longer shop at this branch because I have a pick-up and so automatically charged the ‘council bonus tax.’ I’m not a trader, in fact I’m retired, but I like having a pick-up and so automatically barred from the city centre. It’s a farce.”

One reader, Gail Walker, defended the scheme, writing: “The Clean Air Zone aims to reduce public exposure to nitrogen dioxide through restrictions on the highest polluting vehicles and encouraging the use of cleaner vehicles. This isn’t just about Sheffield as cities under clean air zones includes Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, and Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead).

“At some point we have to take responsibility for what we drive and the pollution we create.” Another reader, Trish Reynolds, says the effect on local businesses is too much, writing: “Typical local authority not realising the total impact of their stupid decisions and how it will affect the daily businesses that have to go to the city. It should be scrapped before it does any more damage to our local economy.”

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Air pollution reportedly contributes to around one in 20 deaths in Sheffield each year.

Sheffield City Council introduced the Clean Air Zone in February 2023 to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels around the city by encouraging the owners of the worst polluting vehicles to upgrade to greener forms of transport.

The council claims the number of the most polluting vehicles in the Clean Air Zone has reduced by two thirds since the CAZ launched.

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