Leeds proposes £16,000 grants for hauliers most affected by its clean air zone

 

Hauliers most affected by the Leeds Clean AIr Zone (CAZ) will be able to bid for a grant of up to £16,000 if the council's request for funding is approved by government.

Leeds announced its final CAZ plans yesterday, which will see non Euro-6 HGVs charged £50 per day to enter the designated zone.

While there are no notable vehicle type exemptions for the HGV sector, the council said it is putting in place support measures for local businesses affected by the CAZ.

One of these is a £27m finance pot to support local firms in upgrading their fleets, which the council will ask the government to fund from its £220m Clean Air Fund.

If approved by government, the council told CM it expects around £13m of the total fund to be used to help hauliers upgrade their non-compliant HGVs. This will be in the form of grants worth up to £16,000 that hauliers can bid for ahead of the CAZ.

The funding scheme was initially devised to support retrofit systems, but following industry concerns that technology would not be ready in time for CAZ compliance, the council has extended the scheme for use buying new and second-hand compliant trucks, or paying off lease balances early.

Leeds added that the support would be particularly focused towards businesses that are located within the CAZ and which will be “most financially impacted by the proposals”.

The council has also introduced a ‘Lack of Market Capacity’ exemption clause from CAZ charging. This is to address industry concerns surrounding over-demand of Euro-6 vehicles and the late development of retrofit systems.

It would allow operators that have placed an order (by a pre-defined date) of a compliant vehicle or retrofit system to benefit from a sunset period until it arrives.

Evidence will be needed of the order being placed and the vehicle/system being available within a reasonable time.

The council states: “This is considered appropriately reasonable in these circumstances as the CAZ proposals are not intended to be a revenue raising mechanism, but are intended as a means of securing compliance with the legal limit value for nitrogen dioxide in the shortest possible time.”

The proposed “go live” date for the Leeds CAZ is 6 January 2020.

Leeds rejected calls from industry to push back the implementation date or use a staged approach to charging based on vehicle age.

It said its legal obligation was to put in place measures as soon as possible to improve air quality.

Its own commissioned research had shown the difference in emissions reduction between Euro-3 and Euro-5 vehicles was not sufficient to warrant charging different amounts.

“A tapered or phased in approach would therefore impact on the effectiveness of the clean air charging zone to reduce air pollution levels in Leeds to within legal limits in the shortest possible timescale,” it said.

Councillor James Lewis, executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment, said:“The plans we’re putting forward have been carefully developed following months of consultation with thousands of residents and local businesses to ensure they are the best plans for Leeds. They will improve air quality within the shortest possible time, tackling air pollution and protecting the health of everyone in the city.

“A key element of these proposals is the support we’re proposing to help affected local businesses transition to cleaner vehicles which avoid charges. We believe that it is important to help local businesses in order for the zone to most successfully reduce pollution.”

The Leeds CAZ final proposals will be submitted to the government on 23 October, with approval expected eight weeks after this date.