Leeds is a city of beauty but like all busy metropolises that attract car drivers, it tends to suffer from clutch-grinding congestion.
The city has direct access to the M1, M62 and M621, making it a motoring hot spot for drivers across the country.
As Leeds bids to be named European Capital of Culture 2023, civic chiefs and transport planners are working to turn the car-clogged city centre into a walkers’ and cyclists’ playground.
This comes after data was released by Global Action Plan (GAP) – based on World Health Organisation and regional Public Health data – which predicted there will be over 2,500 premature adult deaths in Yorkshire this year from bad quality of air.
Ideas currently under consideration include the closure of City Square to general traffic.
John Askham, from Leeds Private Hire Drivers Association, said such plans would be calamitous for the city’s taxi drivers.
“I’ve heard talking of plans to close the whole of Briggate to traffic, which includes removing the Hackney Carriage rank,” he said. “It’s going to cause chaos for Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers alike.
“The public are totally bemused as to what is happening with Leeds City Council’s plans for the future.”
He continued: “The public don’t rate the bus services. They get you from A to B but they don’t take you where you need to go. Especially in bad weather, you don’t want to be dropped by a bus at City Square when have to be at the Merrion Centre.”
A report produced by Leeds City Council late last year said: “Reducing the impact of traffic on our urban core will support our long-term public realm ambitions for the city.
“[There is] a clear vision of what Leeds will look and feel like in 2023 and beyond – a central area with a civic arrival space, welcoming and easy to walk and cycle around.
“An accessible city centre park, with quality urban spaces, European style greened boulevards and well-connected cultural assets.”
It added: “As the first point of arrival for many to our city, our railway station and City Square should reflect its landmark civic status, and both our identity and values as a city.
“Across the city, people have told us they want City Square to be more welcoming, animated by active uses that draw visitors into a vibrant city centre.
“As a key part of our cultural heritage and space of civic pride, above all the square should be a gateway which provides easy access to the economic, social and cultural opportunities of a knowledge rich city centre.”
John Askham made a salient point when asked if the council are trying to score ‘brownie points’ for the title of European City of Culture rather than considering the people of Leeds’ needs: “Come June-time, will we even be in the EU? They obviously haven’t thought of that.”