THE strictest Covid-19 lockdown measures did not see air quality improve to the extent that a review of a planned Clean Air Zone would be necessary.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of Bradford Council's Regeneration and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, where councillors were discussing a procurement worth more than £2 million of automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras and network connection infrastructure for the planned zone.

Geographically, the Clean Air Zone will include Bradford city centre, from the outer ring road, extending up the Canal Road corridor and Manningham Lane into Shipley and Saltaire. Although private cars would not be charged for entering the zone, HGVs, buses, taxis and coaches that do not meet clean air standards would be charged up to £50 a day.

Councillor David Heseltine (Conservative, Bingley) said: "I think we all realise that things need to be done, particularly in some of the hotspots, particularly where there's schools and densely packed housing.

"I am sort of wondering why we are charging ahead, when next door in Leeds they seem to have called a halt on it and are reviewing how the changing traffic patterns due to Covid might affect the process. Is this something we should be doing, rather than running headlong into buying a load of cameras which we’ll actually look at it two years down the line, everybody is working from home, the problem isn’t as big as it was, but there are some smaller areas that might need other remedial attention?"

Richard Gelder, Highway Services Manager at Bradford Council, said a lot of work was done at the start of the first lockdown in March in recognition that there would be a lot less traffic on the road network.

He said: "One of the things we’ve done is actually undertaken dedicated road traffic counts and air quality monitoring just to monitor the impact of Covid on the air quality in Bradford district to see if we can see that massive drop below the intervention level of 40 micrograms for nitrogen dioxide.

"We haven’t seen a reduction below the threshold level in Bradford, even at the worst lockdown measure, so when traffic was at its lightest, we haven’t seen that massive drop that allows us to say if traffic levels continue to be like that for a period of time, we won’t have an air quality problem."

He added: "Our data has shown we still have a problem and I think the direction of thought that as we emerge from lockdown two, and public transport is still not operating at its peak performance, we will see more traffic rather than less traffic on our roads as people use the private car over the bus or the train to actually get to and from work. I’d like to say that we could follow Leeds, I think if we were honest we would say Leeds will probably have to revisit its decision not to introduce a Clean Air Zone and maybe finding that it has to reintroduce that element of its plan at some point in the future, as we emerge from Covid and levels sort of start going back to pre -lockdown traffic volumes.