As reported in last week’s Telegraph, Sheffield City Council is proposing a city centre Clean Air Zone (CAZ) which would charge buses, taxis, lorries and vans for entry into the zone. Low emission vehicles and private cars would be exempt.
The Green Party has always campaigned on the dangers of vehicle emissions which contain nitrogen oxides and particulates which have been proved to worsen the risk of asthma, lung and heart diseases, strokes and Alzheimer’s and cause 500 early deaths in Sheffield alone
We are really pleased the council are proposing this, but have several concerns:
- The council is asking the government for £40 million to set up the scheme and support vehicle conversion. We are in favour of the scheme, but only if it receives sufficient government funding: an unfunded CAZ which ends up increasing bus and taxi fares would be a disaster for hard-pressed travellers and for the future of our ailing public transport. Above all, it could reduce public support for measures to make our environment more healthy.
- Any funds created by the zone must be ring-fenced and publicly accounted to show they are being put to good use to improve public transport.
- The scheme must be accompanied by the Council continuing its programme to introduce cleaner engines in public service vehicles. Support should also be provided for the replacement of vans and taxis which small businesses often rely on.
- The bottom line is that there are too many vehicles on our roads, and queuing is a big waste of time and petrol money. The only long-term solution is to make it cheaper and easier for people to use public transport instead and clear the roads. This would add the benefit of making the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians and encourage active travel. More Park and Ride schemes on the outskirts of the city would reduce air pollution still further.
- If the CAZ doesn’t bring sufficient air quality improvements, the council might be forced to consider further measures such as inclusion of private vehicles in the scheme, higher parking charges, a workplace parking levy, supermarket and shopping mall charges for parking or the extension of the supertram network. Those measures would be justified if they are what it takes to make the city centre’s air fit to breathe. But, whilst measures to help the public would hopefully be put in place, they would cause more cost and personal inconvenience to many drivers.
To reduce the need for all this, we really need to get travellers back on the buses and to encourage this, we need a properly integrated transport system with cheaper, cleaner, faster bus services reaching all parts of the city.
Please be sure to have your say on the Clean Air Zone consultation when it comes out. This will not for a while as the council will wait for government approval of the plans before consulting, probably in spring next year.
To support online petition for better bus services in our region, please go to: bit.ly/savesybus
Sheffield Green Party