In June 2019, Birmingham City Council announced that its Clean Air Zone, which it had planned to introduce in January 2020, will now be delayed until July 2020 at the very earliest. This is because the vehicle checking software needed to enforce the CAZ (the delivery of which is the reponsibility of central govwernmnet) will not be ready in time.The government was also responsible for delivering the system to collect payments, but it is now considering passing this responsibility onto the city council. This will potentially add even more delay, making the introduction of the CAZ in July 2020 very optimistic.
The delay will mean that people in Birmingham will be exposed to harmful and illegal levels of NO2 for longer than is necessary which could adversely affect their health.
It is disheartening that central government continues to drag its feet on tackling air pollution, with harmful and illegal levels of NO2 persisting in scores of towns and cities across the UK. Since 2011, the not for profit environmental lawyers, Client Earth have brought three successful legal challenges against central government’s failure to tackle these illegal levels of NO2. Each time the government has been required to produce new or amended plans to adequately address these illegal levels. It has then passed the buck to the local authorities including Birmingham City Council, requiring them to submit proposals for Clean Air Zones to very challenging deadlines. Now it would appear the government has let us down again by failing to ensure that the necessary systems it had the responsibility of delivering, would be ready in time.
Despite this setback, we trust that Birmingham City Council will continue in its quest to deliver cleaner air for everyone in the city. While the charging element of the CAZ will be delayed, there are of course the additional measures associated with the Clean Air Zone which the council has already committed to implement and which it will be able to crack on with. These include improving the alternatives to driving, such as making bus services more reliable by installing more bus priority measures, and continuing to develop safer and more attractive walking and cycling routes. The delay to the charging element of the CAZ will now make the need for these additional measures even more pressing.
Given the urgency of improving air quality in the city, Birmingham Friends of the Earth has written to all Birmingham MPs to ask them to take the government to task over the delay. Specifically we want our MPs to ask the government the following questions:
Will it provide sufficient resources and commitment to ensure that the vehicle checking software will not be delayed any further?
If the responsibility for delivering the payment collection system is to be passed to the city council, will it provide sufficient support and resources to ensure that this is not delayed.
To compensate for its part in delaying the introduction of the vehicle charging element of the CAZ, will the government now provide additional funding for other clean air measures which could be implemented quickly. Such measures could include funding for more zero emission taxis, and improvements to cycling and walking routes.
The government should not be allowed to drag its feet any longer over tackling poor air quality. Please ask your MP to take the government to task over the delay to the CAZ. You can use and adapt this template letter on our website.