Leeds: A Green City?

The West Yorkshire city hosts part of the Tour de Yorkshire and has just been announced to host part of the UCI cycling championships, yet Leeds is the most toxic city in the UK.

By Jay Partington

Leeds skyline at night with car headlights and street lights and high rise buildings

Car fumes and waste treatment plants are the worst offenders. Credit: WikiCommons

This research comes from Goodmove and found that Leeds has four landfill sites and four electric substations. Our city also contains eleven micro grams of pollutants per cubic metre of air, which could have dire effects on your lungs.

Leeds City Council told Leeds Hacks they are delegating the responsibilities to “Clean Air Leeds” and they are the ones currently “tackling air pollution”. The council are going ahead with a Clean Air Zone which will be introduced in 2020.

The Clean Air Zone imposed by Leeds City Council will charge taxis and private hire vehicles £12.50 on a daily basis, whilst HGVs and coaches will have to pay £50 a day to travel through the city centre.

Clean Air Leeds says on the council’s website they are transitioning their council taxis to “ultra-low or zero emissions vehicles,” as well as offering locals free residency parking at all council car parks, if they do the same with their vehicles. They also plan to upgrade the public transport services so it’s easier to “leave the car at home.”

While Leeds’ treatment of waste may not be up to the standards of other cities, it does have a recycling rate of 37.9% which is relatively high. Plus, Leeds has no active power stations.

So where is all of this air pollution coming from?

A mass of land filled with multicoloured nags of rubbish

Landfill sites release toxins that pollute the air and ground around them. Credit:WikiCommons

The heavy traffic volume is the main culprit. Many residents say that throughout the day Leeds is virtually impossible to navigate through, with many of the A roads and motorway routes out the city being heavily congested.

The painfully slow movement of traffic is catastrophic for the environment as stop-start driving increases your car’s pollution rate by up to 60% compared to normal driving.

Clean Air Zone plan to reduce the congestion and filter out the fumes from our vehicles through “highway improvements” across the city. But not everybody is happy with the efforts being made as some believe not enough is being done.

How is this affecting people?

Local activist and volunteer, Holly Croydon, told Leeds Hacks the council should be “offering more plans” and get them implemented “quicker”. Holly has been working at Greenpeace in an attempt to make Leeds a more environmentally friendly place.

Greenpeace are a charity and pressure group who specialise in keeping the world green, preserving wildlife and finding better alternatives to modern fuels and toxic products. Greenpeace are looking to stop “endless consumption” and hope to find a way to live within “our planetary boundaries”.

Holly has been keeping a close eye on what Leeds City Council and Clean Air Leeds are suggesting and thinks that the ideas put in place are “sustainable,” they need to be brought into place and acted upon with “immediate effect.”

While the list of ideas from Clean Air Leeds appear logical and plausible to start making a change, Holly – like many volunteers –  wants solutions that will offer radical change in less than two years time.

One suggestion is to bring in “electric buses”. The UK have already bought Europe’s biggest fleet in, so why not make public transport more available and sustainable?

Leeds will always strive to be a green city, with multiple cycling championships and the incoming Clean Air Zone policy. But, when we have the title of the most toxic city in the UK, clearly something more needs to be done to make our proud metropolis more eco-friendly.

About the Author

student
This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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