Leeds City Council is to suspend development for the foreseeable future of its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council said that despite the CAZ originally planning to the start in January and then delayed until March, it was seen a significant improvement in air pollution due to the pandemic.
If the city’s air pollution stays below the legal limits then the council will no longer have support from the government to introduce the CAZ. The financial support will remain paused until a review of the city’s air pollution is complete.
The council said that air pollution has also declined because many buses, taxis, private hire vehicles and businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles and the council has also accelerated highways schemes to reduce traffic and create more space for cyclists and pedestrians.
Councillor James Lewis, Deputy Leader for Leeds City Council, said: “As a result of the coronavirus pandemic we have seen pollution levels fall significantly due to the quieter roads. Leeds residents now breathe air that is considerably cleaner and safer than just a few months ago.
“Coronavirus has led to big changes but, thanks to the city’s collective action, local air quality has actually been improving for some time. Many of our buses, taxis, private hire and businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles and we’ve accelerated highways schemes that will reduce traffic and create more space for cyclists and pedestrians. We’re investing in public transport infrastructure as part of our £270 million Connecting Leeds transport programme and have introduced policies and schemes to support the uptake of electric and low emission vehicles.
“Leeds City Council is now working closely with central government to review the long term impact that the pandemic and these other factors will have on the city’s air quality to understand whether pollution will ever reach illegal levels.
“If the city’s air pollution is expected to stay below legal limits then we will no longer have the support of the government to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone. Given this uncertainty, our financial support will continue to be paused until the review is complete and we have received further direction.
“I recognise that at an already uncertain time, this latest update will be frustrating for many businesses. However, I would like to ask drivers and operators for their continued patience whilst we carry out this urgent review. I hope to be able to clarify the future of the Leeds CAZ in the Autumn.
“Tackling the climate emergency and protecting the health of everyone in Leeds remain priorities for this council. Regardless of any future decision on the charging zone we will continue to deliver schemes that enable sustainable travel and the shift to zero emission vehicles.”