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Are small businesses going to suffer due to the proposed congestion charge for Leeds city centre?

It’s no secret that the greenhouse gasses emitted from vehicles are contributing heavily to the ongoing erosion of the environment and rising global warming to potentially catastrophic levels. To combat this, the UK has signed up to many international treaties and agreements, with countries across the world coming together to commit to making the planet a safer and healthier place to live – with a future that doesn’t include horrific weather conditions and natural disasters inspired by centuries of irresponsible energy usage.

Inspired by the congestion zone in London – which charges vehicles driving within central areas of the capital different tiered amounts for the privilege based on the toxicity of their emissions – Leeds is planning to follow suit by 2020 alongside Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, adding themselves to a growing list that includes not only London, but Stockholm, Singapore, Milan, Gothenburg, Durham, Znojmo, and Valetta.

Not only designed to reduce the carbon footprint of the cities that employ that tactic, but built to combat heavy congestion as well, there are multiple benefits to such policies when they’re planned and implemented effectively. However, these have become contentious pieces of policy wherever they’ve been introduced, with campaigners already making vocal opposition to the suggested changes to Leeds city centre.

While there is little argument that both the emissions and traffic apparent within central Leeds needs to be significantly lowered, the manner in which it’s being tackled has quickly become a sore point. Initial plans included a £100-per-day fee for any older or high emissions vehicles travelling within the outer ring road, but that charge has now been halved in updated proposals after small local businesses raised concerns over how financially viable it would be for them to exist under such heavy pricing.

Companies reliant on driving larger vehicles through the centre of Leeds are still unhappy with the financial burden this could cause, however, with some even suggesting that the £50 tariff is still likely to add thousands of pounds extra to their bottom line, which could force them to decide between changing their business plans entirely or consider taking out loans in order to handle the changes in the short term. While the council have claimed to be seeking government funding to help aid the transition from their £220m Clean Air Fund, doubt still reigns over how much difference that could actually make.

Also likely to greatly impact the taxi industry, Leeds is estimated to have 500 city cabs in operation, with over 4,000 private-hire vehicles in circulation on top of that. With the vast majority of those still running from diesel or petrol – and therefore incurring a £12.50-per-day fee under the proposed changes – many have accused the local council of merely profiting from local business under the guise of environmental concern.

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