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Saving lives: City unites around bold action to make our air cleaner and safer

Sheffield City Council is today (Tuesday) announcing plans to create a “clean air zone” which could include the introduction of charges for non-compliant high-polluting vehicles using the inner ring road. The council is not proposing to charge private cars.

After government demanded a clean air feasibility study over high-polluting parts of Sheffield and Rotherham, residents are set to be consulted in the new year over proposals that could see a charging system introduced on and within the inner ring road.

The charges will only apply to the most polluting vehicles such as buses, taxis, lorries and vans. Sheffield Council is seeking government funding to support affected businesses and taxis upgrade their vehicles.

NHS studies suggest up to 500 people die per year in Sheffield for conditions connected to air pollution.

The feasibility study’s findings suggest that a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) within the inner ring road, similar to ones proposed in Leeds, Glasgow and Southampton after government intervention, will be needed to bring the city’s air quality in line with legal levels by January 2021.

The charge will mean a single daily charge for heavily polluting buses, coaches, taxis, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs) to drive through the city. Buses, coaches, taxis, HGVs and LGVs cause disproportionately more pollution and often criss-cross the city with multiple trips.

The government’s main route to achieve legal compliance is through Clean Air Zones which concentrate interventions to tackle the main sources of pollution vehicles, those that are older than Euro 6 for diesel (2016) or Euro 4 for petrol (2006)

Sheffield Council will have a legal duty to clean air to within the limits in the ‘shortest possible time’.

The council will commence a large public consultation in early 2019 to get the views of residents, businesses, taxi drivers and bus companies on the proposed changes.

In a report released today, to be considered by the cabinet on 21 November, Sheffield City Council will be seeking around £40m from government to support its activities in this area, including the installation of signs and cameras on the ring-road that will enable charges to be put in place.

Jack Scott
Jack Scott

Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Development and Transport at SCC, said:

“Air pollution is a major health problem and we know that people across the country including our children are breathing air that is not safe.

“The government is not taking this issue seriously at all. They have completely failed to give local councils the tools and resources we need, whilst forcing us to take the difficult decisions that are now needed because of their inaction.

“We have no desire to charge people but this issue is so serious that we have to take these actions to protect local people and save lives in Sheffield. If we want to make our air safer  for people in Sheffield, we have to take these actions.

“Our intention is to remove the most polluting vehicles from our road network by encouraging drivers to upgrade to cleaner vehicles rather than pay the charge. We need funding from government to provide support, advice and finance to encourage people to upgrade their vehicles if required.

“My vision is for air that is clean and safe for every single person in Sheffield. Achieving this is clearly a major piece of work. But the council can’t do it alone.  As a city, we need to commit to lasting changes to protect our city’s vulnerable residents, particularly our children and older people, who are most at risk. Standing by whilst people become poorly and die is simply not an option.”

What people across Sheffield are saying about a new clean air zone

In Sheffield, toxic air contributes to around 500 deaths a year. It is responsible for an estimated 36,000 deaths annually in the UK.

In 2017, the council set out an ambitious Clean Air Strategy which committed us to making the air in Sheffield safe to breathe, regardless of where people live, work or visit and tackling the sources of air pollution to create a healthier city.

Anti idling scheme launch
Launching the anti-idling awareness scheme (L-R) Jack Scott Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, pupils James Green and Cherry Sway of Hunters Bar School Eco Club and head teacher Catherine Carr.

Councillor Scott added:

“We will support those affected with targeted investment to replace old, polluting vehicles with clean ones, but government must step up to the plate and give us the funding we need  as we know that this change will be difficult for many people. We will be looking for significant government investment not only to help us to implement this new system but also to give us enough funding to support the people affected to make the changes they need. Without this investment the ambitious plans we are bringing forward cannot be delivered.

“We’ll also implement a range of additional measures which enhance the work we’ve already been doing in encouraging active travel, stamping out idling outside our schools, retrofitting our buses and upgrading our taxi fleet.”

Charging lorries, vans, taxis and buses on its own does not achieve legal compliance for Sheffield. We need these vehicles to upgrade and we will need additional measures above and beyond charging to reach legal levels. This will mean significant fleet change to buses, taxis, HGV/LGVs as well as transport changes such as increased bus and tram priority and the rollout of electric charging points. The introduction of electric vehicles, buses and taxis will also be key.

Government is set to make a decision on Sheffield early in 2019 with significant public consultation set to follow before new measures are introduced the following year.

Notes to editors:

This table shows what charges in a potential Clean Air Zone could look like

Vehicle TypeProposed Charge
Buses, Coaches and HGVs£50 a day
Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles£10 a day
Vans / LGVs£10 a day

What needs to happen?

  • Taxis – our London-style Hackney cabs and Private Hire Vehicles have a vital role in helping people get around the city but many of the vehicles are older and more polluting.  We will be working with the taxi sector in Sheffield and government to introduce a major retrofitting and upgrade programme for the city’s taxis

  • Buses – To achieve legal compliance in Sheffield, it will be critical that all the buses entering the CAZ area are upgraded or replaced to meet Euro 6 standards.  Our ambition is for all buses in Sheffield to be Euro 6 standards.  Working with Bus Companies in the city, we are already using Government funding to retrofit buses to Euro 6 standards.

  • LGVs / OGVs – lorries and vans are critical for many businesses in Sheffield, moving goods and materials from one place to another.  But, many of these vehicles emit significant levels of NO₂ and therefore we will work with local businesses and government during the statutory consultation to agree approaches to support HGV and LGV owners to retrofit and upgrade their vehicles, including examining a low interest loan fund.

  • Residents – residents of Sheffield have a critical role to play in helping to clean up the city’s air because the pollution problem is partly due to how we get around the city. We will work with communities to find solutions to local air quality problems and invest in the city’s infrastructure to support people to make more clean, safe, and reliable public transport and active travel choices.


What the council has already done

We have already made significant steps to deliver the commitments to improve air quality from our Clean Air and Transport Strategies.  This includes:

  • Anti-idling campaign across the city - particularly focused on encouraging people to turn their vehicle engines off when dropping off/collecting children from the city’s schools

  • Early Measures Fund – we secured £1.247m from government to deliver the following projects:

Electric Taxi Leasing - enabling hackney drivers to try electric cab vehicles. 10 electric taxis will be available and the scheme will be launched in Spring 2019.

12 rapid charge points - to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles

Improving traffic signal timings on key corridors - to smooth traffic flow and reduce pollution from waiting vehicle

  • Promoting and supporting active travel – as part of a successful South Yorkshire bid for £7.5m over 3 years from the DfT’s Sustainable Transport Access Fund, we are delivering:

Cycleboost – Bike loans, Cycle training, Bike Doctor and maintenance sessions, Cycle parking facilities, and support to

Cycle events held in the City including the partnership with British Cycling and HSBC (mass participation event and local led rides).

Sustainable and Active Travel support for schools

  • Independent Travel Training – providing personalised support for young people to use public transport and walk as an independent alternative to home to school transport.

  • Support for a range of walking programmes and events including Walking for Life and Sheffield Walking festival.

  • SY Busboost – a focussed support programme to encourage people to try public transport as an alternative to commuting by car.

  • Delivering our Air Aware campaign - to encourage and influence changes that support cleaner air outcomes, including developing a Clean Air Champions initiative.

  • Working with Sheffield City Region - on the wider strategic transport ambitions for the functioning economic area.

  • Working with Highways England - to tackle air pollution from and around the M1.

  • The Council’s formal preferred option is a Category C, with additional measures

  • A range of national exemptions exist for vehicles that are not compliant, such as ambulances and police cars. Local exemptions will be considered as part of the formal consultation.