Leeds City Council run a 'State of the City' event annually. This year it focussed on the proposed Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for Leeds.
Campaign member Rob Greenland attended the event at the Civic Hall on 6 December. Here's a write up from Rob.
This is an annual event focusing on a specific issue, with an audience of around 150 people including many Councillors, council officers and other stakeholders from across the city.
This year's focus was on air pollution. The timing was good as the day before the Council had announced that it was to consult on a Clean Air Zone for the city.
Information about the proposed Clean Air Zone is available here: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/Business/Pages/Air-quality.aspx A report is due to go to Exec Board next week - approving the proposed consultation in January and February next year. The Exec Board papers are here: http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=102&MId=7832&Ver=4 (item 19)
I had a quick read through the report which summarises the proposed CAZ - the main points I picked up are in this Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/TheSocBiz/status/938015332094169088
I'm conscious of the risks of trying to summarise something that is quite complicated, but my understanding is they are consulting on a Clean Air Zone that will have boundaries of the outer ring road and the M62 to the south. Non-compliant coaches, buses, taxis, private hire vehicles and heavy goods vehicles will be charged if they enter the zone on a daily basis. The CAZ, if approved, will be implemented from 2020. The proposed charging is based on the charges in London - £12.50 for taxis up to £100 for larger vehicles. Privately owned cars, and Light Goods Vehicles will be exempt from the charges, however polluting they are.
I'm sure Campaign members will be keen to engage with the consultation once it opens in January. My personal reflections, after a quick read of the report and attending yesterday's event, are that I think it is interesting that the Zone is quite wide (the other obvious potential Zone would have been the city centre - maybe the inner ring road). This potentially means that clean air benefits could be widespread, if the Zone has its desired impact. I was surprised that LGVs won't be charged. I was less surprised (but still disappointed) that non compliant cars won't be charged. I'm not wholly sure on this, but it appears that charging cars wasn't allowed by Government - see here https://twitter.com/TheSocBiz/status/938346456829906944.
The rationale, in summary, for not including cars is stated as being primarily economic - a concern that charging cars would most hit those on lowest incomes, who would struggle most to update their vehicles. See here: https://twitter.com/CleanAirLeedsCC/status/938719773910806528. Personally I can see this point, although I'm also reminded of the stat that a third of Leeds households have no access to a car. Many of these households will be on low incomes - and reliant on public transport and taxis.
in the Transport Strategy workshop at yesterday's event I asked about the decision to not include LGVs . Their response was a bit vague but again the argument being given is primarily an economic one - that they think targeting LGVs in this way would have an adverse economic impact.
The Council have said that they will share their evidence pack in January - https://twitter.com/TheSocBiz/status/938334415415074816 so that will help in understanding how proposals have been arrived at.
Alongside the CAZ, the report emphasises the importance of other initiatives, including the Transport Strategy. I went along to the workshop on the Transport Strategy, but to be honest it wasn't particularly good and I didn't learn anything that I hadn't heard before.
In summary, it's obviously really important that we engage with all of this as a Campaign. I think we will need to respond to the specifics of the proposals around the CAZ, but also keep a focus on the bigger picture. I'd suggest that even if the CAZ is a success it's unlikely that the air will taste sweet and there'll be no congestion in 2020! Do we think enough is being done to prioritise public transport, walking and cycling, and lessen the incentives to drive? There's a long way to go on that particular campaign I think!
P.S. if any other member have attended events and would like to update the campaign on them, please get in touch.