Sheffield City Council announces plans for a Clean Air Zone

At the start of 2018, Sheffield Climate Alliance (SCA) decided to have a focus on Air Pollution and the related Transport issues. We were very conscious that without good public transport, it would be virtually impossible to cut down on the two recognised sources of pollution (Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter) that contribute to the poor quality of air in Sheffield. We decided that the goal for our campaigning would be the placement and enforcement of a Clean Air Zone.

Therefore, we at SCA are delighted that Sheffield City Council has announced their proposal for a Clean Air Zone. (Read the press release here)

At least 500 deaths each year in Sheffield are linked to air pollution and Councillor Jack Scott, writing in the ‘Clean Air Strategy’ in December 2017 said that polluted air is a drain on the area’s economy. When both the elderly and the very young are at significant risk of illness due to polluted air and some areas of Sheffield clearly have extremely high levels of pollution that breach the UK levels recognised by DEFRA, do we not also have a social duty to make sure this Zone is in place?

The aim of a Clean Air Zone is to keep the most polluting vehicles out of the Zone (in this case, within and including the Inner Ring Road).

However, we are already aware that there are rumours going around and a lot hinges on the money being available to make sure that only the least emitting buses, HGVs, LGV and taxis drive within our city centre. £1.9 million has already been secured to retrofit over 90 First buses and over 20 Stagecoach buses. It is important to realise that compliant vehicles would not need to pay any levy. However, this money is not sufficient to retrofit all the buses in the city. Ben Gilligan, the Director SYPTE has said that he wants to work with bus operators to minimise any potential fare rises. It is highly probable that fare rises would not result.

A funding bid is to be submitted to retrofit Sheffield registered taxis, the reasoning being that taxis make a high number of journeys in and out of the city centre. However, there is no guarantee that DEFRA will grant this money. If the Government does not give the Council enough, the Clean Air Zone will not happen. Central as well as local government has a responsibility to allow us all to breathe clean air.

There are other questions too, such as, how do we make sure that areas not included in the ‘Clean Air Zone’ such as Burngreave or Tinsley get the support they also need?

The Sheffield City Council has set out a whole range of measures (such as supporting cycling) in the ‘Clean Air Strategy’ and this is to be applauded. The Council released its plans more quickly than some of us thought achievable and we applaud their forward vision. The Council has already put the ‘No Idling’ scheme in place at the start of this school term for 21 schools and we have been discussing with Councillor Scott about how the ‘Air Quality Champions’ scheme could be launched and the support needed to do this for next year. Sheffield Climate Alliance are committed to working with not just the Council, but other groups such as Burngreave Clean Air Group and Sheffield Friends of The Earth to help implement change. We will continue to lobby policy makers both locally and nationally to ensure that Sheffield has the practical and economic support it needs to carry out all these steps and secure a cleaner, healthier future for our city.

The Clean Air Zone proposals will go before the full City Council Meeting next Wednesday, 5 December at 2pm.

There will be a public consultation process in January to March 2019.

Chris Broome, a member of Sheffield Climate Alliance has written a detailed analysis of the issues, which you can read here.