Sheffield’s DPH discusses their Clean Air Zone, one year on

On the first anniversary of  Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone going live, Greg Fell, Director of Public Health, Sheffield City Council has been explaining the purposes of the Zone and explaining what else the council are doing to improve air quality in the city.

Last month we reported on early data which show there has been a significant increase in compliant vehicles driving in the CAZ and wider areas of the city and that the proportion of more polluting vehicles driving through Sheffield has fallen by up to two thirds according to information taken from a survey in October 2023 when compared with an identical one from November 2022.

time lapse photo of street light

Greg Fell said: ‘We are seeing the kind of positive results we were hoping for. The number of polluting vehicles within the CAZ boundary has seen a huge drop compared to the year before, two thirds of a reduction, or 64% to be precise. Data also shows that the polluting traffic around the boundary has dropped by 18% – suggesting that more and more people are making the switch to cleaner vehicles.’

It is estimated that one in 20 deaths in Sheffield can be attributed to air pollution, leading Greg to explain:

‘We often get asked, where is the latest data proving that poor air quality causes deaths in Sheffield? The simple answer is, getting the data on how many people die as a result of breathing in poor air quality isn’t simple, I co-wrote an article last year explaining how we quantify the impacts of poor air quality and who is most likely to suffer as a result.

‘The published medical evidence on the impact pollutants have on our health is compelling and continues to mount. This was most helpfully summarised by the World Health Organisation in 2021, and in the England Chief Medical Officer 2022 report.

‘There are many who have estimated that the levels of air pollution in many cities is equivalent to smoking cigarettes. But even now, you will not see ‘smoking’ listed as a cause of death or illness. The same can be said for poor air quality.

‘Just like the change in behaviour and awareness we are seeing towards smoking, Clean Air Zones across the UK and London’s ULEZ encourage us all to rethink the wider health implications of the way we travel and, with road transport responsible for 80% of roadside NO2 pollution alone, we all have a responsibility to change.

‘In the city centre, we’re working on transport schemes which will improve our infrastructure for walking, wheeling and cycling. With wider footways, new connected cycle routes and improved facilities for bus users, enabling more people to make car-free journeys.

‘By providing more choice in how you travel, we hope to reduce people’s reliance on the car for shorter trips. This, in turn will reduce congestion, make public transport more reliable, and free up space on the road for people who need to travel by car.

‘Locally we also have some great cycling schemes to support people on their cycling journey, and through the Better Points app, you can even collect points by logging walking, cycling and public transport journeys, which can later be redeemed for high street awards or can be donated to charity.

‘In coming weeks, we expect to receive our one-year air quality data, which, owing to the recent data on vehicle trends, should hold promising results.

‘The CAZ was not installed to be a permanent measure. But through it we hope to see permanent changes, for the better, for all who breathe Sheffield’s air, now and into the future.’



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