A centre-right think tank has called for Birmingham’s proposed Clean Air Zone, due to be implemented in 2020, to be expanded across the whole of the West Midlands region.
This is one of a number of policy proposals put forward in a report published this morning, October 26, advocating strong action to address air pollution in the region.
According to Bright Blue, evidence suggests that higher levels of air pollution are present in much of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area, which covers Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and Wolverhampton.
Plans are currently being considered for a charging Clean Air Zone on key roads within the centre of Birmingham, which would see drivers of polluting buses, coaches, lorries, taxis, vans and cars charged a fee to enter the zone, in a bid to reduce emissions in the area (see airqualitynews.com story).
Exact charges and emissions standards have yet to be set by the council, but are thought to be likely to be between £50-100 for heavier vehicles that do not meet the Euro VI standard, while diesel cars below Euro 6 will face charges of between £5-10.
Today, Bright Blue has argued that similar measures could be implemented in ‘relevant parts’ of the town and city centres of the WMCA which, “as a minimum, consistently exceed the national daily and annual limit values for the air pollutants, which currently derive from EU law”.
Responsibility for administration of the entire West Midlands CAZ network should be handed to the WMCA – which is led by the region’s metro mayor Andy Street – the think tank added.
It added: “The CAZs should be designed collaboratively across all constituent local authorities in a way which affords maximum uniformity, and thus ease of use to individuals who may need to travel into different CAZs. Exemptions from the charging for entering the CAZs should apply to vulnerable and low-income groups, as well as drivers of vehicles with cleaner engines.”
Opposition councillors are among those to have raised concerns over the proposals, particularly the potential impact on lower-income households and small businesses, which they suggest will struggle to afford newer vehicles that will be compliant with the CAZ requirements (see airqualitynews.com story).
Bright Blue has argued that any income derived from the CAZ could be used to fund a scrappage scheme to take older diesel vehicles off the road, alongside funding from government.
A scheme to support residents to scrap polluting vehicles does have support from Birmingham city council, which is appealing for funding from central government through its Clean Air Plan.
Commenting on the proposals, Eamonn Ives, researcher at Bright Blue and co-author of the report, said: “Air pollution is a major danger to the health of individuals in the West Midlands. The evidence suggests that those living in the West Midlands experience higher levels of air pollution and worse consequences from it. Concern for air pollution in the West Midlands is widespread amongst the public, and many believe that not enough is being done to resolve it.
“[It is] Time for the Mayor to be bold. He should ensure that this region is not left behind London and lead the way in introducing new, ambitious transport policies to tackle air pollution in the West Midlands. People in the West Midlands need and deserve cleaner air urgently.”