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Clean Air Zone in Sheffield to charge more vehicles starting this week

Temporary exemptions for small vans and black cabs came to an end on Monday.

Spital hill shops 3

Poor air quality disproportionaly affects less well-off areas of the city.

Rachel Rae Photography

More high polluting vehicles will be charged to enter Sheffield's Clean Air Zone starting this week, as temporary exemptions for some vehicles types came to an end on Monday.

When the zone first launched on 27 February, the most polluting Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) and black cabs were given a temporary three-month exemption from the charge to give owners more time to switch to cleaner vehicles.

As of yesterday (5 June), smaller commercial vehicles with engines that don't meet low-pollution standards will have to pay a £10 charge per day for entering the city centre, including the ring road.

Larger vehicles with more polluting engines, such as buses, coaches and lorries, have been charged £50 per day to enter the zone since it launched. Cars remain completely exempt, even if they have a high polluting engine.

The controversial project is designed to tackle Sheffield's dangerous levels of air pollution, which fall far behind international standards for good public health.

"Each year we still see about 500 premature deaths in Sheffield that can be attributed to air pollution," Dr Rohit Chakraborty, an expert in air quality from the University of Sheffield, told Now Then.

"That's 500 families torn apart, 500 stories ending too soon, and countless children burdened with respiratory issues for their entire lives. It’s a no-brainer to take a stand and tackle this."

As exemptions for LGVs and taxis come to an end, the council have also announced a retrospective financial support scheme for those that have already upgraded their vehicles, which is open until 29 June.

A growing body of evidence show that air pollution presents one of the gravest threats to our health. It affects everyone in the UK, from unborn babies to pensioners.

Dirty air has been shown to increase the risk of asthma, strokes, heart attacks, cancer and dementia, among other diseases, according to scientists. A 2016 study estimated that 40,000 deaths were caused by air pollution every year in the UK.

A recent study from Spain has even shown that air pollution can affect children's brain development, leading to poor performance in tests and potential lifelong mental health problems.

Some public health campaigners, including a Green Party councillor, have called on older and more polluting private cars to be added to the charge in Sheffield, as is the case in London and Birmingham.

Dr Chakraborty told us that, given what he called the "staggering range of health conditions" associated with toxic air, the city's strategy for tackling pollution "needs to go further".

"Tackling air pollution in a more comprehensive way will address health disparities, particularly in areas of social deprivation in Sheffield," he said, referring to the fact that air pollution disproportionately affects poorer areas.

"It could potentially save the NHS millions each year. These savings arise from fewer hospital admissions, less need for medication, and a healthier population requiring fewer healthcare services."

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