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UK Looks for Cleaner Air with Birmingham Introducing Car Tax Changes

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On June 01, 2021, after two years of planning, Birmingham City Council launched the Clean Air Zone. Full implementation, including the fines, started on June 14, 2021.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (or CAZ) charges vehicle owners who have not yet complied with the existing emission standards. The main goal of CAZ is to bring down the NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) levels in the city to at least 40 micrograms/cubic meter.

It is also expected to help improve the city’s general health and wellness, particularly in relation to long-term or chronic illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma, strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and other health issues caused by inhaling high levels of particulate matter (PM) and NO2.

Diesel Emission Scandal

Poor-quality emissions are significant pollutants, and they have been for years. Not too long ago, several car manufacturers recalled their vehicles and handed emission compensation claim payments to buyers because of the diesel emission scandal that started with the discovery of Volkswagen’s defeat device. Since then, authorities and councils all over the UK have been strictly implementing emission standard policies.

However, the CAZ does not solely focus on diesel-powered vehicles; it affects various vehicle types.

Type of Clean Air Zones

There are four types of Clean Air Zones:

Class A covers private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, and buses.

Class B includes private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, buses, and HGVs or heavy goods vehicles.

Class C is for private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, buses, minibuses, vans, and HGVs.

Class D covers private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, buses, minibuses, vans, cars, and motorcycles (but only if local authorities include them).

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone falls under Class D. The charges apply to vehicles travelling within the A4540 Middleway, or most of the city centre.

Vehicles have a minimum emission standard that is usually indicated in the logbook. Manufacturers can also provide such information to their customers. In the UK, including Birmingham, there are CAZ minimum standards: Euro VI for HGVs, coaches, and buses; Euro 4 (petrol) and Euro 6 (diesel) for cars, private hire vehicles, vans, taxis, and minibuses; and Euro 3 for motorcycles. There is a separate Clean Air Zone standard for motorcycle, and this is normally set by local authorities.

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Clean air Zone Fines and Exemptions

CAZ fines are as follows:

  • If a regular vehicle does not meet current emission standards, the driver or owner has to pay an £8-a-day fine.
  • For HGVs, LGVs or large goods vehicles, and taxis, the fine is £50 per day.

Failure to pay within six days will result in a penalty charge notice. However, the Birmingham City Council offers temporary exemptions as vehicle owners and residents adjust to the new policy, especially for those who frequently travel to the city for work or business, as well as those who visit for leisurely purposes. These include temporary exemption permits, financial incentives, and granting an HDV or Heavy-Duty Vehicle fund to eligible entities.

In addition, there are also vehicles that may not be fined and can enjoy national exemption. These are:

  • Military vehicles
  • Ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Historic vehicles
  • Disabled tax class vehicles
  • Disabled passenger tax class vehicles
  • Some agricultural vehicles
  • Vehicles modified with CVRAS or Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Software-accredited technology

Opposition to the CAZ

Despite the council’s respectable intentions for the CAZ, there are several residents who are opposed to the scheme as they opine it might have a negative impact on Birmingham. Also, some businesses, particularly those in the hospitality industry, are apprehensive and prefer a delay on the implementation, at least until their sector has regained everything they lost due to the pandemic.

However, local authorities said that the planning period has been too long, so it is time to set the scheme in motion. The council has been looking for ways to bring down NO2 levels since 2017. According to Councillor Waseem Zaffar, outside of London, Birmingham is considered as the most polluted city. A major contributor to the pollution is vehicle fumes. Thus, the CAZ is the ideal solution.

The Birmingham City Council is also encouraging residents and commuters to use public transport, walk, or cycle to their destination (if it is not too far).

For his part, atmospheric pollution expert from the Aston University College of Engineering and Sciences Dr. Stephen Worrall believes that although concerns about the CAZ’s effects on the economy are valid, the scheme is still generally beneficial. It is a long-term solution to a problem that the city has been trying to get rid of for years. He also said that the CAZ will especially help residents in areas exposed to high levels of vehicle pollution.

If you think your vehicle does not pass the current emissions standards, enquire from diesel emission experts. Better yet, get in touch with Diesel Emission Experts so they can help you with your emission standards needs right away.

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