Plans to deploy a charging clean air zone in Birmingham, including for cars and vans, have secured approval and funding from the Government.
The council was one of five that were identified under the Government’s 2015 air quality plan as requiring action, and announced last summer that it was proposing a ‘Class D’ clean air zone that would see drivers of non-Euro 6 compliant diesels and non-Euro 4 compliant petrol vehicles face charges on all roads within the A4540 Middleway ring road from January 2020. Non-compliant private cars, taxis and vans will be charged £8 per day to enter the zone and non-compliant HGVs, coaches and buses charged £50 per day to enter.
A full business case submitted to Defra in February has now secured government approval and funding, as outlined in a letter from Dr Therese Coffey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment.
The council is to receive £14.2m from the Government’s Implementation Fund for the delivery of signs, cameras and other infrastructure, while £38m from the Clean Air Fund will support a package of mitigation measures to support businesses and individuals likely to be impacted by the introduction of a clean air zone.
The council is also offering a range of exemptions to allow eligible businesses and individuals more time to make the switch to compliant vehicles. This includes allowing individuals travelling into the clean air zone for work a one-year exemption while commercial vehicles registered within the clean air zone, or within the Birmingham area and travelling to the zone with an existing finance agreement beyond 2020, will also get a one-year exemption. Meanwhile vans and minibuses registered as providing essential community and school transport services and classified as section 19 operators, and which are registered for operation in Birmingham, will be permanently exempt.
The funding includes nearly £15m to support the taxi community, both Hackney carriage and private hire drivers, to upgrade to cleaner and greener vehicles.
Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “We clearly have a major public health crisis in our city, with people being exposed to illegal and unsafe levels of air pollution. The introduction of a clean air zone is the start of our fight back.
“We feel that we will have sufficient resources to get the balance right between introducing a very much needed clean air zone and supporting the communities and businesses potentially affected by these measures.”
He added: “In light of the reduced funding for a scrappage scheme, we will continue to work with other council leaders and combined authorities across the country to lobby the Government for a national diesel scrappage scheme.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has expressed its support for the scheme’s work to balance out the burdens of the scheme, including the exemptions for commercial vehicles and the inclusion of private cars.
Chris Yarsley, policy manager for the Midlands at FTA, commented: “Birmingham City Council has bucked the trend set by other cities across the country to produce an air quality plan that protects the health of both its citizens as well as that of the local economy. Following a succession of disastrous CAZ proposals in cities including Bath, Leeds and Manchester, which all failed to consider the needs of local and small business, FTA is pleased Birmingham City Council has taken FTA’s advice on board when formulating its plans. By granting a one-year exemption for commercial vehicles currently registered within the zone or those registered in the wider Birmingham area (exact parameters to be confirmed) which have an existing finance agreement beyond 2020, it recognises the financial burden that prematurely upgrading vehicles places upon local or small businesses.
“FTA is also pleased that the Council has refrained from placing the responsibility for improving air quality solely on the shoulders of businesses, when drivers of all types of vehicles – for both private and commercial use – must play their part; it is refreshing to see private cars also included in the zone.”