City clean air zones have become a controversial point of debate in recent months.

The controversy surrounded the extension of London’s ULEZ zone to include Greater London areas.

This turned out to be a huge issue in the recent Uxbridge by-election, which saw the Conservatives hold the seat. It was a very tight contest that Labour was expected to win, but due to the Labour London Mayor’s imposition of the greater ULEZ zone, the national Labour Party took the flack.

Political pursuits

This Conservative’s success against the odds has, at least in part, led to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to recalibrate a number of green policies. Not least, the ban on diesel and patrol vehicles being moved from 2030 to 2035 in the UK, as well permission being given to a new oil field in the North Sea.

As well as being economically minded, the government see these moves as a way to put clear blue water between itself and the Labour party as we head to a general election in the next 12 months.

Costs to the British public of pursuing the green agenda during a general cost of living crisis have encouraged the electorate to support a more moderate approach. This comes despite international legal commitments of achieving ‘net zero’ by 2050, which environmentalists believe become increasingly difficult with th governments recent announcements.

No pain…

City clean air zones are generally not popular with business or local populations. As part of their arguments, they have often denied that the zones make a significant difference.

Now Bradford is reporting significant improvements in air quality after introducing a clean air zone (CAZ) in the city.

This provides clear data led evidence of the positive effects for both the local and global environment.

Improving picture

Bradford’s CAZ went live last year, with non-compliant vans and minibuses paying £9 per day to enter the zone, and HGVs having to stump up £50.

The emissions standards are Euro 6 (diesel) or Euro 4 (petrol), and the CAZ covers the area inside, and including, the Bradford outer ring road.

It also extends out along the Aire valley corridor, (Manningham Lane/Bradford Road and Canal Road area) to include Shipley and Saltaire.

Bradford Council said that thanks to businesses and fleets taking advantage of grants and investing in upgrading their vehicles it has seen significant improvements in air quality levels.

Monthly data from automatic monitoring sites in the CAZ, shows some of the lowest levels of NO2 recorded since records began in Bradford, this is despite traffic now returning to pre-pandemic levels.


On board

Meanwhile, automatic monitoring sites have provided supplementary data. This shows that concentrations of NO2 have remained stable outside the CAZ.

The council says that it has seen more than 65 million journeys to date in the Bradford CAZ.

Non-compliant vehicle journey rates have dropped from 3.6% of all journeys in summer 2022 to just 1.5% at the end of July 2023.

It means that, per month, only 1.5% of approximately 7 million vehicle journeys into the CAZ are chargeable.

Compliant vans have increased from 50% to 70%, while larger vehicles like articulated lorries have increased from 80% to 97% compliant The Bradford taxi fleet is 99% compliant.

The bigger picture

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council says: “We want to thank businesses and transport partners who were using the grants available to upgrade vehicles in advance of the launch of the CAZ.

“It’s good to see these measures translating into improvements in air quality.”

She adds that: “The number of non-compliant vehicles has fallen due to vehicles upgrades and changes to fleet composition, this improves air quality not just in Bradford but throughout West Yorkshire.

Bradford Council is using its CAZ revenue on projects to further improve air quality in the district.

The first major project is the Clean Air Schools Programme to support schools in reducing traffic emissions. This includes a £500,000 grant fund for schools and an anti-idling awareness raising campaign supported by enforcement measures.