The proposed Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in Birmingham and Leeds will be ‘significantly’ postponed, with the councils blaming the government for not delivering digital vehicle checking tools in time that are needed to make the zones operational.
The announcement was made in a joint statement this morning (June 18), which will come as a blow to the two councils who had expected their respective CAZs to come into force in January 2020.
The councils expected the vehicle checker tool, which is being delivered by the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), would be ready by October 2019. However, JAQU has now confirmed that the vehicle checker will not be available until ‘at least’ December 2019 — leaving just weeks before the zones were due to come into force in January 2020.
The councils say they have been left with no choice but to put their CAZ plans on hold indefinitely.
Cllr James Lewis, Deputy Leader for Leeds City Council, said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that Leeds has been forced to delay the introduction of one of the UK’s first Clean Air Zones because of the government’s failure to meet its own commitments to the two largest local authorities.’
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said: ‘However, despite these challenges, we will continue to work closely with the government and other cities to achieve compliance in the shortest possible time because our priority remains ensuring that the people of Birmingham have access to clean air, as is their basic human right.’
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation called the announcement ‘extremely disappointing’.
‘Cleaning up our air should be a national priority for the sake of all our health, but the can has been kicked down the road yet again. Not only does this frankly embarrassing delay mean that those living in Birmingham and Leeds will continue to breathe dangerous air pollution for longer.
‘It also sends a message to other councils across the UK that when their government mandated plans to reduce toxic air are finalised, the government will fail to provide the necessary support needed to put those plans in place.
‘It’s just not good enough.’
AirQualityNews has approached Defra for comment.