Birmingham Conservatives have signalled their opposition to the city council’s plans to establish a Clean Air Zone in the city in a bid to tackle air pollution.
The comments came in response to the council’s consultation on the proposals which ended last week (17 August).
Birmingham is one of five authorities required by the government to take action to meet air quality limits in the shortest possible time with a requirement to consider the introduction of a Clean Air Zone, or other measures that would bring-about a similar reduction in emissions.
Proposals set out by Birmingham would involve the introduction of a charging CAZ applying 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 plans, 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.
However, in their response to the plan, Birmingham Conservatives have said that the city council should not aim to ‘punish those who acted in good faith by buying diesel vehicles’, calling for “positive not punitiveâ€? policies to bring about an improvement in air quality.
Conservatives’ Birmingham group leader Councillor Robert Alden said: “Birmingham is not London, our public transport infrastructure is decades behind other modern European cities, meaning that alternatives to car use are not a viable option for enough people to even begin to justify a regressive charge.
“Indeed for some people, the nature of their work or their personal circumstance means they will always be reliant on car use meaning that unless they are able to afford to upgrade their vehicle they could be priced out of working in, or visiting Birmingham which will further undermine our ambition to compete on the world stage.â€?
Councillor Alden also described the proposals as “unfair, short sighted and lacking in ambition and innovationâ€?.
He said: “They will be damaging for both residents and businesses and will simply move the problems of air quality to different parts of the city.
“Through this consultation response we call on Birmingham city council to urgently rethink its plans, scrap the charge on private vehicles, reduce the size of the zone and the charges for commercial vehicles, and put in place more effective mechanisms to clean the air and positively promote behaviour changes, including support for small businesses.”
Support for the proposals has come from the national healthcare charity British Heart Foundation, which described the CAZ as a ‘crucial step forward’ in tackling air pollution.
The organisation has also called for further action from government to address air pollution.
John Maingay, BHF’s head of policy, said: “In order to protect everyone living in Birmingham, it is vital that bold action is taken on air quality. A Clean Air Zone in the city will be a crucial step forward, as this is the most cost-effective way to tackle polluted air and minimise the damaging effect that it has on people’s heart health.
“However, this is only the beginning and the work to tackle air pollution must go further. The Clean Air Zone will help bring Birmingham into compliance with current EU legal limits, but the government will ultimately need to go beyond these limits if we are to fully protect the public’s health. “