Covid-19: Council delays summer launch of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone

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Birmingham City Council has requested to delay the launch of the Clean Air Zone due to the Coronavirus.

Pollution in the air, mainly caused by vehicles on the roads, is having a harmful effect on the health of people living, working and studying in the city.

Living near a busy road in Birmingham can increase the risk of lung cancer by 4.1 percent and stunt children’s lung growth by 7.7 percent according to research published by King’s College London in November 2019.

The results showed that on high pollution days in the second city, the risk of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest increased by 2.3 percent, there was a 4.1 percent higher chance of children being hospitalised with asthma and the risk of a stroke rose by 2.6 percent.

Roads in Birmingham are one of the busiest roads in the UK (Credit: Stockvault)

Sue Huyton, co-ordinator of the Clean Air Parents’ Network told Birmingham Eastside: “It’s awful that children living in the UK are breathing air that may shorten their lives.”

“As a parent, you want to do everything you can for your children, but when it comes to air pollution you can feel helpless – that’s why those in power must step up.”

This summer Birmingham and a number of other cities were all set to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). For Brum, this was covering all roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road, with vehicles not meeting the national set engine emissions standards being charged to enter this area.

Government approval was given at the beginning of 2019, allocating £14.2 million from its Implementation Fund for the delivery of signs, cameras and other infrastructure.

A further £38 million from the Clean Air Fund has been set aside to support a package of mitigation measures to support businesses and individuals likely to be impacted by the introduction of a Clean Air Zone.

The zone would see car owners, taxi drives, LGV and minibus drivers being asked to pay £8.00 a day for entry into the zone. HGV’s, coaches and buses £50.00

However, everything changed due to the spread of Covid-19.

An eerily quiet A456 Hagley Road, which is within the Clean Air Zone (Credit: Jovita Strolyte)

Peter Edwardson, principal CAZ Officer at Birmingham City Council, confirmed the postponement, saying: “The Clean Air Zone has been delayed as a result of Covid-19.  The zone will not go live before 1st January 2021. The operation of the zone, exemptions and additional support will be the same.”

The council also said that the current priority for income workers and residents is to ensure that they stay safe. Also, the effect on the businesses has meant that its current focus is to support employees rather than upgrade vehicle fleets.

Despite the delay of the CAZ, Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment reiterated the importance of the Zone: “Air pollution remains an on-going concern for this city. Once we have addressed Coronavirus in the immediate term, poor air quality will continue to be a significant issue in the long term, and we should not be complacent.”

Everyone who is willing to apply for a CAZ temporary exemption permit, can find the application on www.brumbreathes.co.uk.

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