Birmingham City Council has confirmed it will not enforce the new clean air zone until later this month, despite the scheme launching this week. The clean air zone (CAZ) launched on June 1, and will see drivers of older, more polluting vehicles charged to drive through the city centre, but enforcement will not begin until June 14.
This “soft launch” is designed to give citizens and visitors to the city a “little extra time to get ready” for the zone, which covers the area inside (but not including) the A4540. When enforcement and fees begin on June 14, drivers of cars, taxis and vans that do not meet the clean air zone emission standard will be charged £8 a day to enter the zone.
To meet the standards required, petrol-powered cars must meet the Euro 4 emissions standard, which came in between January 2005 and January 2006. Diesel-powered cars, meanwhile, must meet the Euro 6 standard that arrived between September 2014 and September 2015.
At the same time, drivers of non-compliant coaches, buses and HGVs will be charged £50 per day to enter the same area. The charge will run 24 hours a day, but drivers can pay during the six days preceding their visit, on the day of their visit or during the six-day period after the day of their visit, giving a total payment window of 13 days.
Those living in the clean air zone can apply for a temporary exemption, which will allow them to drive a non-compliant vehicle through the zone at no cost for up to two years. Those who work in the city centre will also be able to apply for exemptions, as long as they earn less than £30,000 a year.
"After more than two years of planning, I'm delighted to launch Birmingham's clean air zone,” said Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council cabinet member for transport and the environment. “This is a bold move that will help to address some significant health inequalities in our city. This is also an important step in encouraging people to rethink how we all move around the city.
“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. While 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."
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RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said drivers should ensure they are aware of the rules surrounding the clean air zone and should check whether their car is compliant.
“It is important that everyone used to driving into the centre of Birmingham understands that the charges apply 24/7,” he said. “The evenings and night-time aren’t free, which might catch some people working late shifts. An extra £40 per week could be quite a burden for people on low incomes driving older cars.
“We urge people expecting to drive into Birmingham to check whether their car is caught by the scheme, and to challenge the ruling if they think it’s wrong. Commuters and city centre businesses should also be checking whether they are eligible to apply for a temporary exemption.”