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Government backs down on Coventry’s Clean Air Zone

Coventry’s planned Clean Air Zone (CAZ) will now not go ahead after the government accepted other measures proposed by Coventry City Council to tackle air pollution.

The West Midlands city has several air pollution hotspots and according to ClientEarth analysis, the area has an annual mean level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) of 50g/m3, 1.3 times over the legal limit.

To reduce levels of NO2, Coventry was ordered by government to implement a Class D charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and were told it must be implemented as soon as possible with a view to meeting legal air quality compliance by 2023. 

It was the same type of CAZ that is being planned for Birmingham and would have seen drivers of private cars charged to enter as well as trucks, vans and buses.

However, there was resistance from the local authority who instead proposed a series of alternatives including re-routing roads, improving pedestrian access and investing in electric buses.

In a letter to the council, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Rebecca Pow confirmed that these plans have been accepted and the government will give Coventry 24.5m to implement them.

Cllr Jim OBoyle said that the news reflected the ‘overwhelming views of local people and businesses.’

He said: ‘In June last year we clearly set out to the government why a CAZ would not work in Coventry and is not needed. More than six months on they have confirmed what we have always said.

‘What we all know is that it is absolutely vital that we tackle air pollution – and particularly vehicle emissions.

‘We know the health risks of Nitrogen Dioxide and that is why we want to address this through a package of measures including: highways engineering; improved traffic management; cycle routes; travel planning; upgrading bus fleet; supporting a shift to electric taxis; and encouraging the uptake of electric cars and installing more charging points. We have a lot do.’

The Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said the decision is a ‘victory for common sense’.

‘Ministers have made the right choice backing moves to improve air quality which avoid charging road users. But its taken a bold approach from Coventry to win the argument.

‘They recognise that imposing a CAZ would be disastrous for their city as have officials in Southampton, Nottingham and Derby.’

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