Clean Air Zones come to Birmingham – but do you know what they are?


Birmingham's Clean Air Zone will be introduced from Tuesday - but almost a third of locals don't appear to know it, says a new study of drivers

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone will be introduced from Tuesday – but almost a third of locals don’t appear to know it, says a new study of drivers

More than a fifth of drivers in Britain don’t know what a Clean Air Zone is, while almost a third in Birmingham are unaware of one launching in the city centre from Tuesday, new research has revealed.

Some 31 per cent of a smaller pool of motorists surveyed in the West Midlands city said they were unaware that a CAZ will be enforced on roads on 1 June, according to a recent survey by car selling website Motorway.

The Birmingham CAZ – the first pollution-related tax on car drivers in the UK outside of the capital – will see users of older petrol and diesel passenger cars entering the zone at any hour on any day stung with a daily charge of £8. 

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone has been operational since April 2019, demanding a daily payment of £12.50 from drivers of non-compliant motors who enter it – and is due to extend the charging zone’s coverage area from 25 October to cover most of the capital.

Bath became the second city to introduce its own version of a Clean Air Zone on 15 March this year – though it currently does not penalise car drivers or motorcyclists, stinging only those driving larger polluting vehicles, such as lorries and buses.

Birmingham’s CAZ will be far tougher – though only two thirds of locals are aware of this, according to the Motorway poll.

Only motorists who use the cleanest vehicles will avoid the emissions tax, with a quarter of cars used in the West Midlands city facing the surcharge.

The scheme had originally been due to be enforced from July 2020. However, a fault with the Government’s new vehicle checker service – and the subsequent impact of the coronavirus pandemic – has pushed the zone’s introduction back to this summer. 

Birmingham City Council has estimated that a quarter of cars used in the city are non-compliant with the scheme

Birmingham City Council has estimated that a quarter of cars used in the city are non-compliant with the scheme

All drivers of pre-Euro 4 petrol and pre-Euro 6 diesel cars will face a daily charge of £8 to drive within the limits of the A4540 Middleway Ring Road

All drivers of pre-Euro 4 petrol and pre-Euro 6 diesel cars will face a daily charge of £8 to drive within the limits of the A4540 Middleway Ring Road

All drivers of pre-Euro 4 petrol (usually those introduced before 2005) and pre-Euro 6 diesel cars (introduced before 2015) will be stung with a daily charge of £8 to drive within the limits of the A4540 Middleway Ring Road. 

The daily fee should be paid online and there is also a Government-funded Clean Air Zone team you can call on 0300 029 8888 for assistance. 

There is an allocated 13-day payment window for the scheme, so you can either pay six days before the day you use your vehicle in the CAZ, on the same day or up to six days after (up to 11.59 hours on the sixth day) you entered the restriction in a non-compliant motor. 

The scheme will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It means a driver who enters the zone at 11pm and leaves after midnight will have to pay the charge twice. 

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The zone will be enforced by ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras. 

Is your car CAZ and ULEZ compliant? 

Knowing your car’s Euro emissions rating is more important than ever, given the increasing number of levies and fines being introduced for older cars, especially diesels. 

Most Clean Air, Low Emission and Ultra Low Emission Zones being – or already – implemented impact pre-Euro 4 emissions petrol and pre-Euro 6 emission diesel cars.

It’s worth checking online to see which category your models falls into, though it roughly will be designated by when it was first registered, as listed below:

Euro 1 – from 31 December 1992

Euro 2 – from 1 January 1997

Euro 3 – from 1 January 2001

Euro 4 – from 1 January 2006 (common minimum standard for petrol cars)

Euro 5 – from 1 January 2011

Euro 6 – from 1 September 2015 (common minimum standard for diesel cars)

Those with ineligible vehicles who fail to stump up the daily amount will be slapped with a fine of £120 (reduced to £60 if paid within a fortnight). 

The city council has estimated that 25 per cent of motors currently entering the limits of the Clean Air Zone are not non-compliant with the scheme. 

It means up to a quarter of locals could be stung with charges of £56 a week, unless they switch to a newer and cleaner car.  

Two thirds of the 2,009-strong panel of driving Britons told Motorway that they were unaware that a CAZ is being introduced in Birmingham next week. 

Of those living in the city’s postcode (accounting for 194 of the UK adults), just three in ten said they knew the zone was coming in less than a week.

It appears the majority of drivers are oblivious to whether they would need to pay the daily fees because they don’t know which Euro emissions standard their car adheres to. 

Only 12 per cent of the entire panel said they know what the minimum standard for their vehicle is and just 16 per cent know how to check if they will be charged when driving through a CAZ. 

While this figure rises to 20 per cent among the smaller pool of Birmingham drivers, it still shows incredibly low awareness considering it will be in place in just a matter of days from the research being conducted – especially with similar schemes due to launch in Bristol and in the near future in cities across the country.

Amanda Stretton, motoring expert, added: ‘The Birmingham CAZ has been the subject of much debate over the last year, both on a national and local level. 

‘So it’s pretty shocking that only one in three drivers in Birmingham have any idea that it’s coming into force on Tuesday. 

‘Add to that the 21 per cent of UK motorists who don’t even know what a CAZ is. Clearly more needs to be done to educate people before they get a nasty surprise when they drive into a city operating a CAZ.’ 

Birmingham Council has confirmed that – for the meantime – there will be ‘short term exemptions’ in place to help those affected by CAZ.

These will apply only to residents, workers, commercial vehicles and community vehicles.

Other exceptions will also be available for specialist vehicles, community and school transport, disabled vehicles and older cars qualifying for classic vehicle tax.

Drivers need to apply for a temporary exemption permit online but Birmingham Council has warned exemptions received from now on won’t be approved before the scheme launches on Tuesday. 

Some drivers who want to replace their non-compliant older cars with a CAZ-eligible motor will even be able to use a Vehicle Scrappage Scheme that was launched earlier this month.

The £10million incentive is only available to people who have non-compliant cars, work within the CAZ’s limits and earn less than £30,000.

In return for scrapping their cars, successful applicants will receive a £2,000 grant which can be used to purchase a compliant vehicle or on public transport services.

These pollution-related scrappage scheme have raised concerns among classic and collectible car enthusiasts who fear the incentive will remove prized and rare motors from the road – especially in London when the ULEZ is expanded to the North and South Circular Roads from 25 October.

On Monday, second-hand car giant Motorpoint said it has sold a car to the first person to use the Clean Air Zone Vehicle Scrappage and Travel Scheme available to those working in Birmingham.

Peter Crowther, 29, is the first person qualifying for the Birmingham CAZ Scrappage Scheme to utlilise the incentive to purchase a zone-compliant car from Motorpoint this week

Peter Crowther, 29, is the first person qualifying for the Birmingham CAZ Scrappage Scheme to utlilise the incentive to purchase a zone-compliant car from Motorpoint this week

Peter Crowther, 29, who works within the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University, became the first person in the West Midlands to take advantage of the scheme to buy himself a Skoda Fabia to use to commute between home in Willenhall and work in Central Birmingham.

‘I’ve had my Nissan Note for about five years, during which time I’ve done over 100,000 miles with work, firstly with BBC WM and then, more recently, 5Live in Salford. 

‘However, it was getting close to its MOT and I knew I would have to spend a lot of money to get it to pass, and I didn’t think it was worth it given its value,’ he explained. 

Alex Buttle, director at Motorway, said that no matter how you feel about the zones, if the car you’re driving is not exempt from the charge you might be forced to sell, or scrap, like Peter did. 

He says it could be the best time for drivers to part with their older vehicles, especially with the second-hand market thriving in the wake of a downturn in new car sales and reduced production due to a shortage of semiconductor chips used in the latest models. 

‘The used car market is booming right now, due to a real lack of new cars coming to market, so car owners may want to strike while the iron is hot,’ he said.

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‘Whether you go all-in on an electric vehicle or opt for a CAZ-compliant lower-emission petrol or diesel car, there’s an incredible choice available whatever your price range and style.’  

Bath launched a Clean Air Zone in March – the first outside of London. But it DOESN’T charge car drivers

The first clean air zone in England outside of London launched on 15 March and charges drivers of buses and lorries that enter the centre of Bath.

Commercial vehicles that do not meet required emission standards have to pay a daily charge, but private cars and motorbikes are exempt – for now.

Bath and North East Somerset Council said the move could cut emissions to legal levels by the end of 2021.

Bath is the first city in England to introduce a Clean Air Zone outside of London

Bath is the first city in England to introduce a Clean Air Zone outside of London

Several areas in the city regularly exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution – even during lockdown.

Drivers of high-emission commercial vans are forced to pay a £9 fee and HGVs and buses £100. Private hire vehicles and taxis also have to pay £9 per day.

Bath and North East Somerset Council, which has introduced the clean air zone, secured £9.4million of funding from the Government to help residents and businesses, including coach companies and taxi drivers, to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras are installed on all roads leading into the zone, and vehicle number plates will be checked against a DVLA database.

The Clean Air Zone does not charge drivers of passenger cars or riders of private motorcycles

The Clean Air Zone does not charge drivers of passenger cars or riders of private motorcycles

Motorists with non-compliant, chargeable vehicles – including those from outside the UK – must declare and pay for their journey online or they will receive a penalty charge notice.

Liberal Democrat council leader Dine Romero described its introduction as a ‘landmark’ for the city, adding: ‘We’ve put up with unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide for too long.

‘This is unfair on residents, particularly vulnerable older people and children. We want to reduce NO2 pollution in Bath to within legal limits by the end of 2021 at the latest, and a charging clean air zone is the only way we can achieve this.

‘We know this is difficult time for businesses, but we’ve gone ahead with the zone during the pandemic because this is a pressing public health issue.

‘However, we are working with residents and businesses to help them replace polluting vehicles with cleaner ones and there is significant financial and practical help available.’

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