Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone: What It Means For The Second City

Charges have today come into force for drivers entering Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone. The zone was launched in the city centre from the beginning of June, but a two-week delay to charges was afforded as an adjustment time to the region. Now, from Monday 14th June, drives of a vehicle not meeting UK emission standards will incur a daily fee of £8 to drive through the zone, whilst buses and HGV drivers will pay £50 a day.

Birmingham has long been famous as a ‘Motor City’ where the car has been king. Despite widely accepted views that we must act against Climate Change and poor air quality, the Clean Air Zone has been fiercely resisted by many drivers, who have become accustomed to easy access to the city centre.

The charges are active 24/7, all year long without exemption. Anyone found to be breaking the rules could face fines of up to £120. All roads inside the A4540 Middleway ring road fall into the zone, but the circular route itself is not included.

Those owning older cars that are not meeting the Clean Air Zone’s standards are most likely to be affected, with the White Van Man set to be hardest hit. The AA have calculated that 100,000 vehicle owners will be affected, with the cost most heavily falling on lower-income and younger drivers.

However, air pollution contributes to 900 premature deaths a year, according to the Birmingham City Council.

Despite being implemented by Birmingham City Council, the Government has not escaped criticism. The City Council faced a £60m fine if the zone was not delivered, as the scheme comes a year later than its original implementation date due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, has mixed opinions on the zone. “First of all, I think it is important to say that I support the principle behind the clean air zone idea. Birmingham is one of five cities required by the Government to set up a clean air zone, as part of plans to tackle illegal levels of pollution across the country.”

“However, I do have serious concerns about the scheme in Birmingham. There is no doubt that the council’s charging scheme is a heavy stick which will come down hard – with a big increase in the cost of living for those affected.”

On its first day in operation, the Clean Air Zone has come under scrutiny from the newly launched GB News, who have unearthed the affects the Charge is already having on small businesses and the self-employed in the area. No doubt as the roll-out gathers pace more issues will become apparent.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, has this morning responded to the concerns. “The CAZ will help improve everyone’s health and wellbeing. Plus, I’ve been working closely with the Council to ensure support is on offer for those in need.”

For a city like Birmingham, the Clean Air Zone was always needed to improve the sustainability of our region. However, for Britain’s first Motor City, the transition was never going to be easy.