Paul Conway, from Farsley, owns a scaffolding company that has been based in Bradford for more than 15 years.
Mr Conway’s dad passed it over to him when he retired during the pandemic when he handed him the wagon keys and he has been working on the business ever since.
Bradford Council introduced a Class C+ Clean Air Zone, meaning if your vehicle does not meet the required emission standards and is not exempt, you must pay a daily charge to drive in the Bradford zone inside and including the Bradford outer ring road.
The CAZ has been enforced to improve air quality in areas where it is worst and where poor air quality impacts people’s health the most, according to the Bradford Council website.
The zone also extends out along the Aire valley corridor including Manningham Lane, Bradford Road and Canal Road areas as well as Shipley and Saltaire.
Mr Conway, 45, is now forced to pay £50 a day to get to his yard, which is just a 20 minute drive from where he lives.
He said the cost is threatening his business and wiping out much needed profits during the Cost of Living Crisis.
Mr Conway had been preparing for the CAZ and applied for an exemption, however, he was rejected for various reasons, one of which being that he lived on the Leeds side of the Leeds-Bradford border.
“It’s been disastrous,” Mr Conway told The Yorkshire Post.
“I can’t get to my own yard unless I pay the £50, I can’t even get to jobs in Bingley or Keighley.
“I’m having to drive over the moors.
“It’s horrendous driving over the moors in a big wagon, cars treat it like a rat run where they’re doing 50-60 miles [per hour] around country bends and I’m taking most of the road.
“It’s worse in winter because it was pitch black then, I was scraping trees, but it’s the only way I can do it.
“I’ve tried everything to get an exemption, but they’ve turned me down for the exemption because they said I live in Leeds even though my business is based in Bradford.
“They also said it’s because I’m just a storage yard and just because my landlord pays the rates and I don’t pay the rates.
“So I’m in a position right now where I have no choice, I’m going to have to completely pull my business out of Bradford; we’ve been there over 15 years since my dad started it.”
Mr Conway said the council won’t see any individual cases.
He said he recently put in an application for exemption from the scheme, but was declined.
“I felt betrayed after they said they would [exempt me]”, he added.
“The big companies can afford the big vehicles, the compliant vehicles, it’s small companies like me that are suffering because of it.”
The Yorkshire Post contacted Bradford Council for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on individual cases but can offer the following generic information: The Clean Air Zone is a Government directive and as such we have to distribute the grants and exemptions in line with the rules set out by the Government.
“If the Council were to vary the process for distribution of the grants and allocation of exemptions then the Government would be within their rights to clawback grant funding which had been incorrectly distributed.
“Businesses registered within the Bradford District in the name of the applicant are eligible to apply for up to 3 vehicle exemptions from CAZ charges. Grant funding is available to replace or upgrade older vehicles for registered businesses and residents within the Bradford District.
“All information relating to grant eligibility and exemption eligibility can be found on our website. We would encourage anyone who is unsure about any aspect of the Clean Air Zone to call our team for factual advice about their specific situation on 01274 435533. We always try to help.”
Mr Conway admits that his ordeal has affected his mental health considerably as he is struggling to keep his business afloat due to the limited profit margin his business makes when having to pay the fines.
“It’s taking a mental toll because you feel like no one is listening, it’s not important, everything that me and my dad worked for and built up,” he said.
"We had a job in Saltaire and I planned for the congestion zone, when we went to go take [the wagon] down there were so many cars parked down the streets that we couldn’t get the wagon down. We could only get about a few hundred yards within where the job was based and all the lads said ‘shall we come back’ and I said I can’t afford it, so we had to spend an extra two hours walking all the gear up the street just because I couldn’t afford to pay for another day.
“There’s not a huge profit margin in it anymore, so getting a fine will wipe the entire profit for an entire job. But I know I won’t get any jobs if I ramp up prices to include the emissions fee.
“Now all the vehicles that are avoiding it are just piling onto all the country roads.
“We don’t want to do that.”
Mr Conway said he is now considering moving his business to Leeds.
“I know Christmas is coming and I know I just can’t sustain paying £50 a day to go to my own yard”, he added.
“It would be easy if [the fine] wasn’t so high, but £50 a day for my wagon?
“Since the CAZ came in it’s made my life hell. I am only a small business and it’s killing me.
“I really don’t think they had cities like Leeds and Bradford in mind, when [the CAZ] was thought up.
“We are two cities that are joined next to each other and both cities have services and businesses that deal with both cities, but any business from the Leeds side has really been done over.”