Birmingham Clean Air Zone given green light by Government

The Clean Air Zone in Birmingham has been described as 'much needed' by the council

The CAZ will see high polluting vehicles including taxis having to pay a charge for access to the city centre zone, unlike in other schemes mooted across the country.

The city council made the move following requirements from central government to achieve air quality limits in “the shortest possible time”.

Environment minister Dr Therese Coffey has now written to the local authority confirming its plans for a Class D CAZ with a package of additional measures also approved.

Funding of £14.2m has been allocated to the project from the Government’s Implementation Fund for the delivery of signs, cameras and other infrastructure, alongside £38m from the Clean Air Fund to support a package of mitigation measures to support businesses and individuals impacted by the CAZ.

In terms of a breakdown of the costs, £10.84m will provide mobility support for those working in the CAZ, £5m for Hackney Carriage taxi drivers, £2.75m for a Hackney Carriage leasing scheme, £7m for a private hire vehicle upgrade package, £10.05m for an HGV and coach fund, £0.35m on awareness, and £1.97m to support administration.

A range of one and two-year exemptions has also been offered by the council to allow eligible businesses time to switch to vehicles which comply with the CAZ rules, including coaches and HGVs, residents living in the Zone, commuters, visits to key hospitals and care facilities, and vehicles registered for disabled use.

Cabinet member for transport and environment at the council, Cllr Waseem Zaffar, said: “We feel that we will have sufficient resources to get the balance right between introducing a very much needed CAZ and supporting the communities and businesses potentially affected by these measures.

“I’m pleased that we will have nearly £15m to support the taxi community, both Hackney carriage and private hire drivers, to upgrade to cleaner and greener vehicles, enabling them to continue providing their valuable service to the city.”

Zaffar also said he would work with other council leaders and combined authorities to lobby government for a national diesel scrappage scheme to complement the CAZ measures.

Dangers of air pollution

The announcement comes as a report from the European Heart Journal claims that the dangers of particulates as a contributing factor in early deaths are more severe than smoking tobacco.

According to the study, scientists estimate around 800,000 people die prematurely each year across Europe due to air pollution – with a prediction that each life has been shortened by more than two years from airborne particulates.

It also follows the consistent air pollution warnings in London, where annual air pollution limits are often breached within a few weeks. As a result, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has introduced the UK’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will launch across central London on 8 April.

The Mayor is additionally running a £23m van scrappage fund to help charities and small businesses switch to cleaner vehicles and recently doubled the amount of funding business owners and London residents can apply for when scrapping older cars.

James Evison

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