The introduction of a Clean Air Zone in Birmingham is to be significantly postponed due to a government delay in delivering digital systems required to make the zones operational and enforceable.

Birmingham City Council had been on track to implement Clean Air Zones on the basis that a vehicle checker tool, which is being delivered by the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), would be ready by October 2019 as planned.

However, JAQU (a joint unit between DfT and DEFRA) 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.

Birmingham City Council confirmed it would be the 1st of July 2020 at the earliest.

The Government is now expecting local authorities to deliver a system for collecting payments from non-compliant vehicles which enter the Clean Air Zone — having previously said that it would deliver this.

Leeds City Council, who was also set to have a Clean Air Zone will also be delayed in implementing the plan.

The original plans for Clean Air Zones in Birmingham and Leeds came after the Government identified that parts of each city would likely fail legal air quality levels by 2020 and instructed both local authorities to tackle air pollution as soon as possible.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said:

The council has been fully on track to implement the Clean Air Zone from January 2020 on the basis of assurances from the Government that the vehicle checker would be in place by October this year.

However, the delivery of this essential online tool has now been delayed to December 2019, which means we are unable to go ahead with our Clean Air Zone in January as planned, as this would be completely unfair on residents, businesses and visitors to the city who would only have a matter of weeks, if not days, to make key choices about their travel behaviour or upgrade their vehicles.

This is simply unacceptable.

While this does mean people will have longer to make these changes, it will also delay Birmingham in achieving air quality compliance, leaving our city exposed to dirty air for longer than anticipated.

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.

– COUNCILLOR WASEEM ZAFFAR – BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL

Air pollution has been identified by Public Health England as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK.

Evidence shows that it can cause or worsen a range of lung and heart conditions including asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic heart disease and stroke.

The government have said they are committed to cleaning up the air, but need to balance environmental goals with realistic timescales they are to create a service that is reliable and effective for local authorities.

We are aware of concerns over delays and are carrying out work to develop key components of the system to support the Charging Clean Air Zones for January 2020.

– SPOKESPERSON FOR THE DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS