A PLANNED clean air zone in Bradford is as "momentous" a step for public health as seat belts in cars and the smoking ban - a top clinician has claimed.

This morning Bradford Council's Executive agreed to begin a consultation into creating a Clean Air Zone that would take in most of Bradford, Shipley, and the main roads in between.

HGVs, buses, taxis and coaches that do not meet clean air standards would be charged up to £50 a day for entering the zone.

The Council is hoping the move will drastically reduce pollution in the district, and encourage vehicle owners to switch to environmentally friendly vehicles, or upgrade their existing vehicles.

The scheme is dependent on a £60 million grant from the government that would be used to provide grants to vehicle owners to make these changes.

It follows a "ministerial direction" to Bradford Council from the government in 2018, ordering the reduction in pollution to legal levels as soon as possible.

Bradford 'clean air zone' could see HGVs, buses and taxis charged to enter city

Members were told that if the policy was brought in late next year as planned, Bradford could be compliant with legal clear air levels by 2022.

Local research group Born In Bradford will monitor the impact of the scheme on public health in a UK first study.

At today's meeting John Wright, a clinician and Chief Investigator for Born In Bradford who had cycled to the meeting, hailed the clean air plans, saying: "What a great day. I regularly see the consequences of dirty air. I see babies born at abnormal weights and with small head circumferences.

"I tell some of my colleagues that when they drive diesel cars to work they do more harm than help to the patients they are treating."

He pointed out that pollution was the second biggest cause of premature death in the UK, adding: "One of the biggest things we can do to improve people's health is to clean that air up.

"Unlike the smog from industrial chimneys and cigarette smoke, you can't see this pollution - but we see the evidence of its impact in hospitals.

"We're delighted to support this - this is a decision as momentous as requiring seat belts in cars and banning smoking in public places."

Any money raised through the charges would legally have to be used to deal with clean air issues in Bradford.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby told the meeting that the Government had just announced a £4 million grant to the Council to help develop the business case for the scheme.

The remaining £60m government grant would provide funding of up to £15,000 to help upgrade HGVs, up to £18,750 to improve buses, and between £3,500 and £5,000 to improve taxis.

Andrew Whittles, Programme Manager for the Bradford Air Quality Plan, said: "These plans are similar to what are being proposed in Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds. Lots of vehicle operators will already be thinking of upgrading their vehicles to keep running in these cities."

Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe pointed out that 40 per cent of asthma cases in Bradford were down to air pollution, and added: "These clean air zones are something that is happening all over the UK in cities like Leeds and Manchester. The whole country is attempting to level up to improve air quality."

After the meeting James Craig from campaign group Clean Air Bradford said: "We welcome this clean air zone, it is a step in the right direction. We need to get people to re-consider how they travel - get them out of their cars and using public transport or walking."

Consultation on the plans has now started. For more information visit bradford.gov.uk/breathebetterbradford