The city councils of Leeds and Birmingham have released a joint statement after the introduction of their clean air zones were postponed.
Both councils were on track to implement their respective clean air zones at the start of 2020 as planned; this was set to be done through a vehicle checker tool that is being delivered by the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) – this was expected to be ready by October 2019.
However, the delay in the delivery of these digital systems – crucial in ensuring the zones are operational and enforceable – has been confirmed; the JAQU say the vehicle checker will not be available until at least December 2019 – which is just weeks before the zones in Birmingham and Leeds were set to come into force.
Another change is in the collection of payments on those vehicles that are non-compliant in the clean air zone. Previously, the government said it would deliver this. Now, though, the local authorities are expected to do this.
Councillor James Lewis, Deputy Leader for Leeds City Council, labelled the decision as “extremely disappointing.”
He said: “It is extremely disappointing that Leeds has been forced to delay introduction of one of the UK’s first clean air zones because of the government’s failure to meet its own commitments to the two largest local authorities.
“Leeds City Council has worked incredibly hard to make sure that the clean air zone would be delivered on time, successfully meeting a number of challenging deadlines set by the government.
“Many local businesses have similarly invested both time and money into ensuring their own preparedness for January.
“The government now needs to outline new timescales that they are confident can be delivered in order to give residents and businesses across the country clarity and certainty about the future of these schemes.”
These schemes are vital to reduce the risk of air pollution.