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Clean Air Zone for Sheffield city centre not yet abandoned

Council push back on claims they have scrapped an anti-pollution project after announcing a post-pandemic review.

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The most polluting vehicles could be charged for driving into the city centre.

Photo by Harrison Qi on Unsplash.

Sheffield City Council have told Now Then they have not abandoned plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the city.

The clarification comes after the Council announced last week they were "reviewing" the planned introduction of daily charges for the most polluting vehicles entering the city centre.

The scheme, which was supposed to be in place by early 2021, would see high polluting taxis and vans charged £10 a day to enter a zone broadly corresponding with the inner ring road.

High polluting buses and lorries would be charged £50 a day, with private cars exempt from the scheme.

"We feel that in light of the change in air pollution and the impact on local businesses arising from Covid-19 that it's right that we undertake a review of our current scheme," a Council spokesperson told Now Then.

"We have not announced that we are abandoning any plans. This way we can ensure that in finalising our Clean Air Plan we deliver the right scheme to achieve lasting compliance in the shortest possible time.

"The Council told Now Then that because air quality compliance is judged over the course of a calendar year, they don't yet have sufficient data for the period covering the lockdown.

Public Health England research in 2010 found that 5.5% of adult deaths in Sheffield could be attributed to air pollution.

When we asked the Council what they were doing to reduce air pollution before a final decision on the CAZ, they pointed to a number of already-announced measures. These include the 22 electric vehicle charge points being installed in the city this year, new electric bin lorries and a scheme allowing local businesses to test out a fleet of 30 electric vans.

Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds have also postponed the introduction of CAZs.

Birmingham Council have said they remain committed to introducing a CAZ in 2021, but Leeds have suspended plans indefinitely. Health experts told The Guardian that the delays "put wellbeing at risk."

Funding from central government to introduce CAZs is dependent on illegal levels of air pollution in English cities.

According to Leeds City Council, traffic reductions during lockdown have caused cities to temporarily fall within legal limits, meaning they are no longer eligible for the funding.

However there is no indication that this reduction will continue as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

"Whilst the Council state that behavioural changes brought about due to the pandemic have caused a significant improvement in air quality, it is not known if this is a permanent change," Nathan Strathdee of Extinction Rebellion Sheffield told Now Then.

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The Council have not ruled out the future introduction of a Clean Air Zone.

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash.

"Furthermore, far from the pandemic making the issue of air pollution less urgent, it has made our respiratory health more important than ever."

Extinction Rebellion said that if the CAZ is scrapped the Council must make other "bold and rapid changes", such as the permanent pedestrianisation of city centre streets.

"We need deeds not pretty words," said Strathdee.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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