THE Bradford Clean Air Zone has gone live today (Monday), almost four years after Bradford Council was ordered to draw up a plan to improve air quality in the city.

The CAZ, which sees the most polluting commercial vehicles charged to enter Bradford and sections of Shipley, has proved to be one of the most controversial political issues in Bradford in recent years.

In 2018 Bradford Council was issued a “ministerial direction” by Government to reduce illegal levels of pollution in areas of the District.

READ MORE: Residents air concerns as Bradford CAZ starts on Monday

Government department Defra argued that existing plans to improve air quality and reduce pollution would not bring air quality to legal levels in some areas of Bradford until 2027 – and that more drastic action was needed.

In the following years proposals to reduce pollution were developed, and in early 2020 the Clean Air Zone was announced.

It would see commercial vehicles that did not comply to certain standards charged to enter the zone, with non compliant HGVs and vans charged up to £50 a day.

Private vehicles including cars and motorbikes will be exempt from charging.

READ MORE: Bradford Clean Air Zone: Vehicle charges and how to pay

Bradford Council and health organisations have highlighted how the illegal air quality was harming the health of people in Bradford – particularly children, and leading to high levels of asthma and respiratory conditions.

Health bosses have praised the scheme. Professor John Wright, clinician and Chief Investigator for Born In Bradford, said it was a momentous step forward for public health – comparable to the smoking ban or seat belt laws.

However, like both those changes, the plans met with a huge backlash.

Many small businesses have argued that the charges would place too great a burden on them – and they could not afford the extra cost.

Some have said they planned to increase costs to their customers to pay for the charge.

And other critics have said the plan will lead to Bradford becoming a “ghost town.”

The Conservative opposition on Bradford Council argued that a charging Clean Air Zone was not needed, and that there were other ways of reducing pollution.

But Bradford Council has argued that it was Government that pushed for the action – and signed off on the charging plan.

Council bosses said Bradford had a requirement to bring air quality to legal levels.

At a recent Council meeting, members were told that other options, such as introducing electric buses or park and ride schemes, would not improve air quality enough to satisfy Defra.

It has since emerged that £2 from every CAZ charge will go to Government coffers.

The remainder of the income from the CAZ will be used to fund its operation, with any remaining money used for further environmental improvement schemes, such as providing further grants to help businesses upgrade vehicles.

The Clean Air Zone included a huge funding package from Government, with Bradford Council given millions to hand out to local businesses to upgrade their vehicles.

And Bradford Council has offered exemptions to smaller businesses to allow some of their vehicles to avoid charging.

So far the majority of the District’s taxis have been upgraded to be Clean Air Zone compliant, along with the vast majority of Bradford’s buses.

New figures show grants have been awarded to upgrade almost 2,900 vehicles.

And over 6,500 exemptions have been awarded for vehicles in the District.

The Clean Air Zone has gone live in the early hours of Monday morning.