What difference will the Birmingham Clean Air Zone make to my life and work?

The Clean Air Zone in Birmingham means that daily charges are now in force for older, more polluting vehicles driving the city centre.

The scheme had been delayed twice, the first time was due to a government delay in delivering digital systems required to make the zones operational and enforceable.

It was setback again, this time due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the city council writing to the Government asking for a postponement.

But now the Clean Air Zone is finally coming to fruition, what impact will it really have on our lives?

Map of Birmingham's Clean Air Zone.

What do those in favour say?

  • The councillor

For many, the biggest advantage is the promise of fresher air and a nicer environment in which to live, work and enjoy free time.

The councillor responsible for transport at Birmingham City Council, Waseem Zaffar, says the Zone will save 50 lives a year and that people will choose to come to Birmingham rather than elsewhere because of the prospect of a nicer environment.

  • The electric car driver

Those who have green vehicles will avoid the charge.

Anthony Hibbs from Newcastle-under-Lyme used to spend £100 a month on fuel, but now he says he pays just £3 a week to charge his electric car.

He was initially against purchasing an electric vehicle due to the high upfront cost, but after some research realised that it was possible to own a 'normal' e-car that wasn't necessarily top-of-the-range.

  • The health expert

Dr  Alice Turner is a Respiratory medicine consultant who believes the Zone will have a positive impact on anyone who works or lives nearby.

She believes we could see up to a 20% reduction in certain pollutants.

  • The climate activist

Climate change activists like Sanjive Mahandru say we've left it late enough and the Clean Air Zone is urgently needed to encourage people to take public transport, walk or cycle.

What do those against the Clean Air Zone say?

  • The people near the city centre

The Clean Air Zone doesn't just impact those in the city.

Residents in nearby Kings Heath say they feel forgotten.

Andy Gudge says residents there already face delays every day driving into town in their Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme, and he's worried pollution will only migrate from the city centre to his neighbourhood.

Another group feeling frustrated by the Zone are a group of musicians from Kings Heath who regularly travel into Birmingham City Centre to perform.

  • The self-employed

The Musicians Union was one of four unions to sign an open letter to the leader of Birmingham City Council asking for a one year delay to the introduction to the Zone and for support scheme for the cultural sector.

  • The taxi driver

Taxi drivers within the city have also expressed concerns after being told they will have to change their vehicles to avoid paying daily charges.

Sajid Mahmood told ITV News Central that even though they agree with cleaner air measures, it's going to make life difficult for his drivers. 

What is the council doing to help?

The city council has £35 million of grants available to help drivers.

This includes a 'scrappage' scheme, where people working in the Zone more than 18 hours per week, earning less than £30,000, can get their vehicle scrapped and in return receive £2,000 towards bus travel or the same amount off a compliant vehicle.

Birmingham City Council say everyone should check whether or not they will need to pay the daily fee, and around three out of four people won't need to. They acknowledged some individuals and organisations will require additional time to prepare and so there's a range of exemptions and financial incentives for extra support.

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