Alex Sobel has warmly welcomed the announcement that Leeds has secured funding for the Clean Air Zone.
Leeds City Council have been given final approval and over £29 million in funding from the government to implement a Clean Air Charging Zone in the city and support for businesses affected.
Mr Sobel has been relentlessly lobbying Government Ministers to achieve the funding, including putting pressure on Secretary of State Michael Gove in a recent meeting of the Environmental Audit Committee.
Addressing Mr Gove, Alex Sobel said, “Three and a half years ago, eight cities were mandated to solve a problem, one of those was Leeds City Council, who worked with DEFRA and produced a very robust plan. Therese Coffey came here and sat where you are sat and praised Leeds for their work. Now, Leeds put forward that they need £40m to fund it and it’s been rejected. Is there a cap on how much councils can get and are you committed to them being able to meet their clean air targets?”
Mr Gove committed to investigate the matter and discuss it with Therese Coffey saying, “I take your point,” but stressed a limit to overall funding for all of the cities.
Mr Sobel then asked, “And if it’s clear that the whole funding available, isn’t sufficient for these mandated cities to meet their air quality targets, do you intend to go back to the treasury to seek more funds?” Mr Gove replied that whilst he didn’t want to “strong arm the chancellor.” He would be happy to look at proposals from “fair minded bids and requests from local authorities for the support they need.”
Now, Leeds’ new bid has been successfully agreed by the Department of Energy, Food and Rural Affairs.
Mr Sobel welcomed the news and it’s environmental implications. He said “This is good news for Leeds and great news for my constituents who have been subject to high levels of pollution from the A660 for far too long. We face an air quality crisis in Leeds as we do in all UK major cities and this proposal means that Leeds will be the beacon of light, leading the way on the issue.
I would like to congratulate Judith Blake and Leeds City Council on their tireless efforts to see this deal over the line. It has not been easy and I have had countless discussions with ministers as well as the Secretary of State, urging them to put proper funding behind Leeds’ proposals. We are still short of the overall funding that we asked for but this is a huge step forward and allows the Implementation process to begin. It just goes to show what can be achieved when we work together as one city for the people of Leeds and Wharfedale.”
Cllr James Lewis, executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment said, “Having now received the green light from the government, our priority is to ensure the successful delivery of the Clean Air Charging Zone as required by Ministerial Direction over the next fifty weeks. “Businesses that are likely to be affected need to look at the vehicles they operate and begin their final preparations for the introduction of the zone. “We recognise that this will be a difficult transition for some businesses to make. We have not received the full amount of funding that we asked the government for, however, we are pleased to confirm today that a number of significant financial support packages will be available to assist owners of affected vehicles. “Leeds City Council will not make money from these charges. Charge revenue will only be used to cover the costs of operating the CAZ, to support owners of affected vehicles, and for other schemes to improve air quality in the city. The plans come after the government instructed Leeds City Council to tackle air pollution in Leeds as soon as possible after finding that parts of the city would likely fail legal air quality levels by 2020. Evidence shows that spending time in areas with high levels of air pollution can worsen symptoms of asthma, damage our lungs and reduce our life expectancy.