Clean Air Zones in Leeds and Bristol under review following pandemic

Leeds and Bristol councils are reviewing plans to introduce Clean Air Zones because air quality has improved following the coronavirus pandemic.

The schemes followed a similar principle to London’s low-emission zone, which charges those in more polluting cars a fee to enter.

In Leeds, owners of the most polluting lorries, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles would be charged to enter, with privately owned cars and motorbikes being exempt.

However, the city has suspended plans to introduce its Clean Air Zone in September because improvements in air quality caused by fewer vehicles on the road during the pandemic could result in government funding being withdrawn.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council’s deputy leader James Lewis said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Bristol had planned to ban all diesel vehicles from a small area of the city while also implementing a zone that would charge more polluting vehicles to enter, but this was dropped over government concerns about a full diesel ban.

BristolLive reports that mayor Marvin Rees has confirmed that Bristol is working on a new Clean Air Zone criteria that could mean charges on polluting private vehicles are no longer needed. This has been driven by different travel patterns following the pandemic leading to an improvement in air quality.