BRADFORD’S Clean Air Zone (CAZ) has been delayed until Spring 2022, the Council announced yesterday.

But the timing of the announcement – just a fortnight before the scheme was due to go live – has angered those who had been rushing to change vehicles to meet the original deadline.

The scheme was meant to come into force on January 5, 2022, but Bradford Council said a delay of several months would allow businesses more time to use the Clean Air Funding available and upgrade their vehicles.

In addition, a new £1.7m fund to increase the electric vehicle grants available for taxis has been introduced.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, the Council’s executive member for healthy people and places, said: “The Council has had a lot of positive feedback from businesses who are being helped to upgrade their vehicles. However, there is a national shortage of compliant vans and lorries, with many companies reporting delays into next year for the delivery of their new vehicles.

“We have also taken into account the potential impact that new Covid restrictions could have on businesses as they adapt to the CAZ. This extended lead-in period to the implementation of the CAZ will therefore assist businesses in making preparations.”

Stuart Wightman, a self-employed electrician from Saltaire, is one of many who have felt the pressure to upgrade their vehicle by January, and despite being eligible to apply for a grant, he still had to take out a personal loan to afford a vehicle in time.

He said: “I had to take out a personal loan and drive to Stoke-on-Trent to get a vehicle in time for January. I feel like I’ve been pressured into getting one before the scheme was due to go live. I’ve literally had the van three days and then they announce 14 days before it that it’s all getting delayed. I didn’t need that expense and pressure the week before Christmas.  I certainly wouldn’t have been going into debt until next Spring if I had known.”

Although Mr Wightman is eligible for a share of the £10.4m Clean Air Van & Minibus Fund which provides grants of up to £4,500 to upgrade vehicles, he still needed the cash to pay upfront for the new vehicle.

Mr Wightman said although he has ‘qualified for the right to apply for a grant, to claim it, the vehicle has got to be traceable to the previous owner, they’ve got to be contactable and he’s got to prove that he has got rid of his old van, which will be a ‘kill in a saturated market’.

The Council has announced that it will be launching a taxi scrappage scheme early in the New Year. This means they will be able to opt for an electric taxi with increased £10,000 grants from the new taxi fund.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, added: “I want to thank Bradford Licensed Taxi trade for all they are doing to make the air cleaner in Bradford district. 

“With many successful grant awards, we are making significant progress. The new funding available alongside the extended lead-in period means that there are more opportunities for taxi owners to apply for increased grants if they wish to upgrade to an electric vehicle.”

However, taxi companies in Bradford have criticised this new fund, adding that many taxi drivers have already left the trade because of the looming CAZ, and others have already upgraded their vehicles.

Asif Shah, Director of Baildon Taxis and Better Taxi Action Group said: “I don’t see how it’s going to benefit us, because we’ve already been put in the deep end with it. The drivers felt like they were compelled to buy these vehicles on this timeline and telling us two weeks before it was implemented was completely pointless. 

"A lot of people were struggling and decided to leave the trade because they couldn’t afford to pay out £10,000 for a new vehicle so I think it’s a little bit too late to extend it in the interest of the taxi drivers. If they told us two months ago it would have been different because it would have given people a bit longer to save money.”

One former Bradford taxi driver even said he couldn’t afford a new vehicle, and has found himself on job seekers allowance.

Shipley councillor Martin Love, leader of the Council's Green Group, said: "It’s incredibly frustrating that Bradford Council have waited until the eleventh hour to delay the introduction of the CAZ. The additional grants for taxi drivers are welcome – but these could have been in place much sooner. The Council knew taxi drivers were struggling months ago.This is just another example of a Labour administration floundering from one self-induced problem to another."