Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) will hit poorest locals still dealing with pandemic, experts say

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) will hit poorest locals still dealing with pandemic, experts say
The Birmingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which charges high-polluting vehicles to drive through the city, has faced criticism for its “questionable” timing ahead of today’s (1 June) launch.

Originally due to go live in 2020, but delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak, the scheme is the first of its kind outside London to charge private cars as well as other vehicles. Owners of non-compliant cars, taxis and vans face an £8 daily charge, 24 hours a day, throughout the year. Diesel cars which are not Euro 6 compliant and petrol cars which do not meet Euro 4 standards will have to pay the charge.

Regional economist Dr Steven McCabe of Birmingham City University said: “Launching the CAZ whilst the city is still dealing with the fallout of the global pandemic is questionable, particularly for the retail and the night-time economies in the city centre, Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter.

“Anything making life more financially challenging to Birmingham’s poorest citizens is unwelcome.”

In a statement, Birmingham City Council made it clear that drivers will not be charged to enter the CAZ until 14 June as part of a two-week soft launch.

The council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, Waseem Zaffar, said: “I would encourage everyone to use this time to check their vehicles, familiarise themselves with the charging process and check out the support that is still available through the Brum Breathes website.”

Councillor Zaffar added: “I'm confident that this initiative will save lives, and provide a cleaner, greener, safer space for our communities in a part of our city that has a problem with poor air quality.”

The city council has also set up a £10 million scheme offering £2,000 grants to people working in the CAZ, who earn less than £30,000 a year, with the option of scrapping a non-compliant vehicle.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said businesses and residents have expressed legitimate concerns about enforcement hours, the area the CAZ covers and the impact on lower income households.

He said: “What we must not lose sight of, however, is the fact the West Midlands is in the midst of a climate emergency and air pollution plays a critical role in tackling that.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While many drivers won’t be affected by the new clean air zone, a significant minority who drive older cars will have to pay.

“Drivers with diesel cars first registered in 2016 or earlier and petrol cars registered in 2006 or before should visit the Government’s vehicle checker website –  – to see if they will have to pay or not.

“Local residents and businesses with non-compliant vehicles should contact Birmingham City Council to see if they’re eligible for an exemption.”



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