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A Magazine for Sheffield

Early results indicate success for Sheffield's Clean Air Zone

Council figures show there has been a sharp fall in the number of highly polluting vehicles both inside and outside the zone.

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Early data released by Sheffield City Council indicate that the city's Clean Air Zone (CAZ) has successfully reduced the number of the most polluting vehicles entering the city centre.

The zone, which doesn't apply to private vehicles, launched on 27 February and sees the most toxic lorries, vans, taxis and buses charged up to £50 a day to enter an area within the inner ring-road.

The charge is targeted at vehicles with older engines that are much more dangerous to human health. It was introduced after research found that air pollution contributes to a staggering 1 in 20 deaths in Sheffield each year.

The new figures show that the proportion of private hire vehicles with the most polluting engines entering the zone fell from 23% in November last year to 4% in October this year (the percentage of the most polluting hackney cabs licensed by the council in the whole city fell from 85% to 37%).

The proportion of Light Goods Vehicles (vans) with the most polluting engines in the zone fell from 41% to 16% over the same time period. The proportion of the most polluting buses and coaches fell from 24% to 12%, and lorries from 22% to 8%.

Overall, the percentage of all chargeable vehicle types with the most polluting engines fell from 37% to 13% inside the zone, and from 39% to 32% outside the zone.

Sheffield Council told Now Then that the data was captured over seven days from twelve different locations, and that the sample size was around half a million vehicles.

According to the council, their survey found that the proportion of vehicles with the most polluting engines fell within the CAZ and outside the boundaries of the zone as well, suggesting the policy has had a knock-on effect for the rest of the city.

"The council say that there are big improvements across all vehicle types and gives a breakdown of the vehicle types which are subject to charge," Graham Turnbull of campaign group Clean Air Sheffield told Now Then.

"We need to keep in mind that when they say 'all vehicle types' they're only talking about the vehicles that are subject to charge. We cannot translate a two-thirds reduction in polluting vehicles to a two-thirds reduction in air pollution. Compliant diesel vehicles are still creating pollution, and there will have been no reduction at all in private cars or motorbikes."

Turnbull added that it is "unfortunate that we ended up with such a watered-down version of the Clean Air Zone."

"Sheffield deserves better but until central government adopts stricter air pollution limits, the council’s hands are tied."

The council say they will release information about the effect that the policy has had on air quality itself next year.

Accelerated disease

Greg Fell, the city's Director of Public Health, has said that "poor air quality makes people sick, worsens existing health conditions, increases pressure on the NHS, and can kill people before their time."

As well as causing life-threatening conditions like stroke, bronchus and lung cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), according to Fell there is "almost no disease process that is not accelerated" by exposure to air pollution.

Figures from 2018 suggest that air pollution contributes to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in the UK each year, with vehicles responsible for 80% of roadside pollution alone, but more recent data suggests the figure could now be as high as 40,000 deaths a year.

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, and doctors now believe that the damage begins during the first few weeks in the womb, with the development of the baby's heart, brain, hormone systems and immunity all being affected.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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