Communities across the UK came together to celebrate and educate on Clean Air Day on 20 June, just two days after the Government postponed indefinitely plans to introduce the country’s first Clean Air Zones in Leeds and Birmingham.
Leeds City Council closed roads outside 11 primary schools during a day of events throughout the city. However, only two days earlier the council had announced the postponement of the planned introduction of the city’s Clean Air Zone because of a government delay in delivering digital systems required to make the zones operational and enforceable.
Heavily polluting vehicles would have been charged £50 a day to access parts of the city from January 2020. However, this has been pushed back indefinitely because a vehicle checker tool, which was due to be delivered by the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit, will not be ready by October 2019 as planned.
Councillor James Lewis, deputy leader for Leeds City Council, said: “It is extremely disappointing that Leeds has been forced to delay the introduction of one of the UK’s first Clean Air Zones because of the Government’s failure to meet its own commitments.”
He added that the council had successfully met ‘a number of challenging deadlines’ set by the Government and that local businesses had also invested time and money to prepare for January implementation. “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,” he said.
There was better news elsewhere, however. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, used Clean Air Day to announce a car-free day in the capital. On Sunday 22 September this year around 12 miles of streets will be closed to cars in central London. There will also be events and street performances, and boroughs will close off individual roads to create ‘play streets’ for children.
Shortly after Clean Air Day, the Scottish Government confirmed funding of £20.6 million to encourage the use of electric vehicles by creating hundreds of new charge points across the country.
Find out about CIEH’s air quality campaign.