Air pollution ‘will choke Wakefield and Bradford’

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Environmentalists have criticised the government’s new clean air strategy amid fears some of Yorkshire’s most polluted towns and cities are being ignored.

An analysis by Friends of the Earth has revealed that there are no plans for action across vast swathes of the region despite toxic levels of pollution.

Wakefield and Bradford are both predicted to have illegal levels of air pollution until at least 2020, according to the government’s own figures.

But the latest Air Quality Plan, which was published last week, does not require them to take any action to fix this, the environmental charity has warned.

However, Rotherham Council is expected to produce a clean air local action plan, even though air pollution is predicted to be a problem for just one year more.

Authorities in Sheffield and Leeds are also being told to take action.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, deputy leader of Leeds City Council and executive board member for environment and sustainability, said: “We take the issue of air pollution very seriously and are already well on with modelling and research into a number of potential initiatives we could introduce in the city to improve air quality.”

Friends of the Earth has been calling on the government to urgently introduce Clean Air Zones in all the locations predicted to have illegal levels of air pollution beyond next year, including Wakefield and Bradford.

Richard Dyer, Friends of the Earth North of England campaigner, said: “The government plans appear to wash their hands of doing anything to protect thousands of people in Yorkshire breathing dangerous air.

“Despite their own modelling showing that air pollution is going to choke Wakefield and Bradford residents for years to come, the government has decided to do precisely nothing about it.

“This is a despicable dereliction of duty. Ministers know as well as anyone that Clean Air Zones are essential. The fact that they have not only not failed to introduce the best measure to protect people’s health, but put in place no new measures at all, is an absolute scandal.”

A government spokesperson said all local authorities would have the power to introduce a Clean Air Zone.

They added: “The government will provide £255 million to councils to conduct feasibility studies and develop local plans.

“Overall we are investing £3bn to tackle the effects of roadside pollution and supporting greener transport.”