Birmingham and Leeds city councils are set to introduce Clean Air Zones in 2020 that will charge drivers between £6 and £10 a day to enter their centres.
While Birmingham’s proposal will target all drivers, Leeds will only charge extra for older heavy vehicles, such as lorries and buses, and taxis.
Similar to London’s existing T-Charge and next year’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which will eventually be expanded to a large area of the capital, the levies will be applied in a bid to tackle lethal ‘crisis-level’ air pollution.
Clean Air Zones: Birmingham City Council intends to introduce a new emissions charge for older petrol and diesel cars that will force drivers to pay £6 to £10 a day to drive in the centre. Leeds City Council will also introduce a Clean Air Zone but only for lorries, buses and taxis
The proposed introduction of the CAZ charge is in response to a looming deadline for cities to urgently put in place new measures to tackle poor air quality which could land UK cities like Birmingham with a fine of up to £60 million from the European Commission.
The schemes, which require government approval, would hit vehicles failing to meet emissions targets and would be in place by 1 January 2020.
Birmingham’s restriction on vehicles is in-line with the ULEZ in the capital: only Euro 4 or newer petrols, which are generally those registered after 2006, and Euro 6 diesels registered after 2015 will be exempt from the charge, council officials said.
When a charge was first proposed in Britain’s second city, it was thought it would only hit the most polluting vehicles like older buses, taxis, coaches and lorries.
However, the council is now including private cars in its plans, and has not ruled out the inclusion of motorbikes as well.
While the most polluting HGVs and taxis face charges of £100 a day, private car owners will have to stump up between £6 and £10 to use their older motors.
Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment
Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment, said the measures would need to be introduced as the city ‘faced one of its biggest challenges’ in air pollution, which he described as ‘a public health crisis in the city’.
He added the plans were ‘not about making money’ and that any surplus revenue raised would go back into the city’s transport budget.
The decision will be offered to public consultation and will include further strategies aimed at improve the air quality Birmingham residents breathe.
In the announcement Mr Zaffar said: ‘It’s the fourth biggest health concern and we need to work together.
‘We have to put measures in place to give people the fundamental human rights of good quality, breathable air.’
The local authority’s own analysis found air pollution was responsible for shortening the lives of approximately 900 people across the city.
The chargeable area being proposed would cover every road within the city centre, incorporating the popular Bullring Shopping Centre and Arena Birmingham music venue, up to – but not including – the A4540 middle ring road.
The Clean Air Zone in Birmingham would cover every road within the city centre, though the A4540 middle ring road will be exempt
The popular Bullring Shopping Centre (pictured) and Arena Birmingham music venue will be within the Clean Air Zones limits, the council said
Based on 2016 data, the local authority has estimated that about half of all cars would fall within the charging scheme based on those emission standards, and about 55 per cent of all vehicles, when taken together with HGVs, vans, coaches and minibuses.
The restrictions in Leeds will currently only target larger vehicles, including lorries buses and coaches. And it will also apply to taxi drivers and private hire firms.
Under the city council’s initial proposals, it suggested a £100 surcharge – equal to Birmingham’s charge – on the most polluting vehicles travelling within the city’s Outer Ring Road.
However, the charge has now been halved to £50 a day and the restricted area reduced under revised plans.
Leeds council will charge buses, coaches and HGVs £50 a day to drive in the centre. Taxi and private hire drivers will have to pay a daily charge of £12.50
While private vehicle owners won’t be taxed to drive in the centre of Leeds, the council is proposing ‘car-free’ days and the introduction of idling penalties outside school and in high-pollution areas
Leeds council is also seeking views from the public on whether there should be new measures for passenger cars.
This includes car-free days in the city and policed ‘no idling’ zones outside schools and on busy routes similar to those found in some London boroughs.
However, there is currently no intention to levy passenger vehicles in the same way as London and Birmingham.
Leeds councils said efforts would be made to help businesses adhere to the new restrictions by tapping into the government’s £220million Clean Air Fund.
Proposed daily charges for vehicles in Leeds
Buses/Coaches – £50
HGVs – £50
Taxi and private hire – £12.50
*Charges subject to consultation
This would be used to offer firms operating HGVs and coaches up to £19,000 to retrofit their vehicles with emissions-reducing equipment.
Taxi and private hire drivers will also be provided with grants of up to £3,000 to change to hybrid and electric vehicles.
Similar Clean Air Zones have also been discussed for Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, all of which are aiming to be in place in two year’s time.
Councillor James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for resources and sustainability, said: ‘Ensuring we reduce pollution levels across the whole city is a real priority for the council and something we are working hard to achieve.
‘As much as the clean air charging zone forms a key part of our preferred scheme – ensuring all our communities are able to breathe clean air is the end goal.’
The European Commission issued a ‘final warning’ to the Government in January over repeated breaches of air quality limits in 16 areas, with Birmingham and Leeds among the worst offenders.
The Government was warned to implement plans to clean up dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide or face legal action in the European Court of Justice.
The London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) will replace the T-Charge next year. It will be extended to the whole of inner London in 2021
London has been at the forefront of emissions taxes on older cars.
The congestion charge charging drivers £11.50 to enter the central routes has been in place since 2013, through there are discounts for residents within the zone, disabled blue badge holders and others.
The capital already operates a wider Low Emission Zone for commercial vehicles with charges of £200 for lorries, buses and coaches weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and £100 for others, like minibuses.
The additional £10 T-Charge has also been operating since last year as a stop gap until the £12.50 ULEZ arrives in central London next April – and taking in all of inner London by 2021.
No discounts will be offered to residents when the ULEZ extends to the North and South Circular in three years, slapping owners of older cars with a daily charge of £12.50 if they use their vehicles.
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