The government has told Leeds City Council to resubmit its bid for a clean air zone (CAZ) after rejecting a request for £27m to help hauliers upgrade their non-compliant vehicles.

Leeds had asked the government for a total of £40m to fund its CAZ of which £27m was earmarked to help local businesses upgrade their non-compliant fleets ahead of the introduction of the zone in January 2020.

Around £13m of the £27m funding pot had been promised to the HGV sector in the form of grants worth up to £16,000 that operators can bid for to upgrade non-compliant vehicles.

However, Defra minister Therese Coffey this week rejected the council’s bid and questioned the level of uptake of support packages from local businesses.

In a letter to council leaders she said that whilst Defra approved the council’s bid for £13m to support the cost of the rollout and operation of the scheme, it rejected its bid for another £27m under the Clean Air Fund.

She ordered the council to resubmit its bid and provide “clear evidence of the need for support, how it is being targeted to the least well off and how it will deliver value for money.

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“We anticipate that the provision of this evidence to support assumptions on the uptake of the schemes proposed, as well as how they will support the most vulnerable businesses and drivers affected, will result in a further reduction of the bid presented in October by at least a third.”

Councillor James Lewis, executive member for sustainability, said: "We are disappointed by this letter. The department has received drafts of the business case we submitted, yet with less than 14 months to go before the date of implementation set down in the ministerial direction, an unknown cap on the money available from government to support businesses and drivers has emerged.

He added: "There is also no recognition that, as no clean air charging zones have been implemented in the UK, no schemes such as interest free loans for TPH and HGV support packages have been implemented and therefore there is no evidence available on take up rates."

One Leeds haulier who declined to be identified told MT: “This has left us local hauliers in limbo with absolutely no idea of what is happening.

"How are we expected to run our businesses? We need clarity as soon as possible.”

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