Charges for drivers in Birmingham's Clean Air Zone delayed by two weeks in 'soft launch'

·2-min read

Charges for Birmingham's new Clean Air Zone (CAZ) have been delayed by two weeks.

The council announced that drivers in non-compliant vehicles heading into the city would not need to pay the daily rate until 14 June as part of a "soft launch".

The CAZ scheme was first supposed to come into force in Birmingham in 2020, but was put off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cars, taxis and vans which do not meet the requirements for the CAZ will have to pay £8 per day, with the zone in force 24 hours a day, all year round.

It covers the area inside the A4540 ring road - with the region monitored by cameras, much like London's congestion charge.

Drivers of larger vehicles which do not meet requirements, like certain coaches, buses and HGVs, face having to pay £50 a day.

A CAZ is already in effect in Bristol, and the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London operates on a similar principle.

Addressing the delay, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for transport and environment, Waseem Zaffar, said: "Whilst we have agreed on a two-week soft launch period where people won't have to pay, 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."

However, the Labour-run council's actions have come under scrutiny from Conservative MPs who represent the area.

Tory MP Gary Sambrook, who represents Birmingham Northfield, said: "Thank God this lot aren't in control of a brewery … beggars belief that Labour's flagship policy for Birmingham stumbles on launch day."

And Nicola Richards, Conservative MP for West Bromwich East - outside the CAZ, said: "Whilst reducing air pollution is key, taxing residents to travel into the city for work, leisure, shopping, or visiting the hospitals is simply not on."

The AA has said that 100,000 vehicle owners will be affected by the scheme, and the company predicts younger and less well-off people will face the highest financial burden.

AA president Edmund King said: "Poor air quality is a threat that the majority of drivers agree needs to be addressed and reduced; in due course electric vehicles will largely eradicate those emissions.

"However, the car CAZs in Bristol and Birmingham and the extended Ultra Low Emission Zone in London are very blunt tools that create a tax burden for low-income families and workers."

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The council is offering exemptions for residents in the CAZ, adding that such initiatives are needed for improving air quality and public health in the centre of Birmingham.

Grant schemes are also being made available for people who earn below £30,000 per year.

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