Birmingham city council is set to launch a six-week consultation on its plans to charge drivers to enter a Clean Air Zone, after the council’s cabinet approved a motion to push ahead with the proposal yesterday (26 June).
However, opposition councillors have expressed concerns that the length of the consultation is too short to canvas a wide enough set of views on the plans with local residents and businesses likely to be impacted by the introduction of the CAZ.
Birmingham city council is one of five authorities required by the government to take action to meet legal air quality limits in the shortest possible time with a requirement to introduce a Clean Air Zone by 2020.
Proposals have been drawn up which would involve the introduction of a ‘Class D’ charging zone in Birmingham, and would apply to the ‘most polluting vehicles, including buses, coaches, lorries, taxis and private hire vehicles, vans and private cars.
It is proposed that the Clean Air Zone should cover all roads within the A4540 Middleway ring road.
Under Birmingham’s proposals, charges are likely to be levied on pre Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol light vehicles, while heavy goods vehicles would be required to meet the Euro VI standard to avoid charges.
During yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition councillors put forward concerns that the Labour run council’s favoured option would impact on the poorest members of the community and local businesses the hardest.
Some councillors also questioned whether the council should look to hold a longer consultation on the proposals, due to the significant impact that the proposals are likely to have on the city.
The council has opted only to carry out a six-week consultation in order to meet a deadline for the submission of its proposals to Defra this autumn.
However, citing similar CAZ scoping work being carried out by Southampton city council, Conservative councillor Robert Alden claimed that the Hampshire authority had opted to stage a longer, 12-week consultation, which despite making it unlikely that it would hit its target to submit plans to Defra, would still allow it to implement a CAZ by 2020, and allow for a greater level of transparency over the proposals.
Fellow Conservative Councillor Debbie Clancy also claimed that Leeds city council had carried out an initial 12 week consultation on its plans in December, and is due to carry out a further stage of consultation starting later this week.
“They know there is a legal obligation to fit within the government’s framework, but they know it is necessary to have extensive engagement with neighbouring authorities and local businesses,â€? she told the meeting.
Responding to the comments, Councillor Waseem Zaffar, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment said that the city council will “do all we can to ensure that the consultation is as wide as possible.â€?
Following a consultation on the proposals, which will be launched in the coming weeks, Birmingham city council will put a full business case of its final proposal to government, before deciding whether to go ahead with the scheme.
Birmingham city council – Clean Air Zone Report