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GREEN MEANS GO


EXACT START DATE FINALLY ANNOUNCED FOR BIRMINGHAM’S CLEAN AIR ZONE


Birmingham’s controversial CAZ is set to be launched on June 1 2021, the city council announced on 8 October following discus- sions with government ministers. The Birmingham Mail reports that the initia- tive, which will impose charges on vehicles which don’t meet strict criteria, is aimed at improving air quality in the heart of the city. However, the CAZ has been the subject of various delays and has also attracted huge criticism, with claims it could adversely affect businesses and low income residents. Announcing the scheduled start date, Cllr Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for trans- port and environment, said: “We have been working closely with officials at the Joint Air Quality Unit and ministers to agree a new launch date for the government-mandated Clean Air Zone. “The majority of drivers on Birmingham’s roads will not need to pay the daily charge


but if you do then you may be eligible for an exemption or one of the financial incen- tives.” Last month council leader Ian Ward had told a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) briefing that the aim was to intro-


duce the charge in summer 2021 - but the exact date has only just been announced. The scheme has previously suffered a num- ber of delays, because of issues with the government’s vehicle checker and more recently Covid-19. The CAZ will cover an area of the city inside the inner ring road (A4540 Middleway) and once up-and-running will mean that the owners of the most polluting vehicles, which account for around a quarter of those on Birmingham’s roads, will need to pay a daily charge to drive into the zone. Amid concern about the impact, the council has said it is offering a range of exemptions and financial incentives, with £35 million to help residents, city centre workers and busi- nesses prepare for the launch. Applications and expressions of interest are now open and more information is available at www.BrumBreathes.co.uk.


REVIEW SAYS CLEAN AIR ZONE FOR LEEDS ‘NO LONGER REQUIRED’


Leeds’ planned CAZ is no longer required thanks to businesses switching to cleaner vehicles faster than expected, a joint review by Leeds City Council and central govern- ment has concluded. According to The Business Desk, Councillors were to discuss the conclusions and propos- als to voluntarily introduce new air quality targets that go further than the national standards at a meeting of their Executive Board. More than 90% of buses and 80% of HGVs driven in the city now use cleaner Euro VI engines and therefore wouldn’t be charged if a zone was introduced. Nearly half of the city’s licensed taxi and PHVs are also now hybrid or electric. Because of the shift to cleaner vehicles, the review found air pollution in Leeds on key routes is below legal limits and is not likely to exceed them again – even if traffic were to return to ‘normal’ levels or slightly higher.


The city’s council has written to the Govern- ment requesting to keep £6.9m of CAZ funding that Leeds had previously secured to ‘lock in’ the full extent of air quality improvements. The money would be used to continue offering grants to help businesses switch to cleaner vehicles as well as to provide free licensing costs to drivers of less polluting taxi and private hire vehicles. Leeds would also be able to keep and repur- pose the ANPR camera infrastructure that had been installed to monitor and enforce the zone. The council says in the “unlikely” event air quality declined for any reason, it would still have this infrastructure and could seek sup- port from Government to introduce a Clean Air Zone. As part of an updated air quality strategy being brought forward early next year, Leeds City Council is proposing to voluntar-


ily introduce stricter new targets for local air quality that are aligned with World Health Organisation guidelines. Councillor James Lewis, deputy leader for Leeds City Council and executive board member with responsibility for air quality, said: “Thanks to our city’s collective effort, Leeds residents are breathing air that is cleaner and safer than ever before. “When we consulted on the CAZ in 2018, we said that we hoped that no one would be charged because businesses would switch to less polluting vehicles before the charg- ing system takes effect. That is exactly what has happened. “We have achieved the aims of the Clean Air Zone without having to charge a single vehicle. If Leeds were to introduce a CAZ today, only a fraction of vehicles would be affected because the vast majority of busi- nesses are now driving cleaner vehicles than they were just a few years ago.”


T HE CL E A N E R , S A F ER WAY TO TR A V E L


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30 NOVEMBER 2020 10:26


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