Leeds City Council is set to scrap its planned Clean Air Zone (CAZ) after businesses switched to cleaner vehicles in anticipation but is considering repurposing the vehicle tracking technology installed for the scheme.
The council said a joint review with the Government has concluded that the CAZ is no longer required after vehicles switched ‘faster than expected’. However, its executive board will discuss proposals next weed to voluntarily introduce new air quality targets that go further than the national standards.
As part of an updated air quality strategy being brought forward early next year, the council is proposing to introduce new targets aligned with stricter World Health Organisation guidelines.
The council said it will be able to keep and repurpose the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera infrastructure that had been installed to monitor and enforce the CAZ at a cost of several million pounds.
The review found that more than 90% of buses and 80% of heavy goods vehicles driven in the city now use Euro VI engines and would not be charged if a zone was introduced and nearly half of the city’s taxis and private hire cars are now hybrid or electric.
In addition, pollution on key routes is below legal limits and not likely to exceed them again, ‘even if traffic were to return to normal levels or slightly higher’, while transport infrastructure improvements and the popularity of ultra-low emission vehicles are also improving air quality.
James Lewis, deputy council leader executive board member with responsibility for air quality, said: ‘When we consulted on the CAZ in 2018, we said that we hoped that no one would be charged because businesses would switch to less polluting vehicles before the charging system takes effect.
‘That is exactly what has happened. We have achieved the aims of the Clean Air Zone without having to charge a single vehicle.’