Clean Air Zones: Mandated authorities take different directions on charging
City councils in Birmingham and Leeds have recently approved plans to introduce Charging Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in their city centres, while in Derby, Nottingham and Southampton, there are no plans to introduce a charging zone.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has approved Leeds City Council’s plan to introduce a charging zone, while Birmingham City Council awaits a decision, expected in February 2019.
The five authorities were mandated as part of the 2017 Defra Improving air quality: national plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, which requested the city councils’ plans for a CAZ, including whether this would include a charging scheme, by the end of 2018; for implementation by the end of 2019. Both the Birmingham and Leeds Charging CAZs are planned to be introduced from January 2020.
Leeds City Council has stated charges will not apply to cars, vans or motorcycles, instead focusing on heavier polluting vehicles, such as HGVs, coaches, buses, taxis and private hire vehicles with its Charging CAZ. The council will also encourage businesses to transition to cleaner, less polluting vehicles (not subject to a charge). Find out more about the planned charges in Leeds here.
Birmingham City Council’s proposals include charging cars, taxis and vans entering the CAZ £8 per day. Heavier polluting vehicles are set to be charged £50 per day.
Exemptions (some subject to time limits) are proposed in Birmingham, however, for commercial vehicles, vehicles with existing finance agreements in place and those involved with community, healthcare and school services.
The council in Birmingham has also launched a public information website, Business Breathes, to provide further information on the Charging CAZ and incentives around upgrading vehicles.
In its Clean Air Strategy 2019, Defra has reaffirmed that air-quality projects other than Charging CAZs (which would be as effective at reducing nitrogen dioxide [NO2]) are welcomed.
In deciding not to introduce a Charging CAZ, Southampton City Council stated that other air-quality projects it has initiated have already been successful in reducing NO2, such as cleaner buses and low-emission taxis. Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council have also cited alternative air-quality projects as being behind their decisions to not proceed with a Charging CAZ.
A further 23 local authorities have been instructed by Defra to take steps to reduce road-side emissions and 33 to carry out studies on reducing NO2 air pollution in their areas.
In November 2018, the Welsh Government published the Supplemental plan to the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations 2017, which directs the councils of Cardiff and Caerphilly to undertake an assessment by 30 June 2019 to achieve NO2 limit values within the shortest possible time.
Types of Charging CAZ
There are four types of Charging CAZ, which will be indicated on signs through the letters A–D.
A: Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles
B: As above, plus HGVs
C: As above, plus light goods vehicles
D: As above, plus cars
Penalties for failing to pay the charge in a Charging CAZ
There are plans to introduce a single national payment portal for the charges to be paid. The individual charging authorities will, however, be responsible for responding to representations and appeals about penalties.
Independent adjudication will be provided by the adjudicators of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, who already hear road user charging appeals at the Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing, Mersey Gateway Bridge Crossing and the Durham Road User Charge Zone.
The Public Information Challenge
PATROL is committed to improving public information about traffic management and enforcement, and sees some of the key communication challenges for charging CAZs as being:
- How will people know where the charging clean air zones are?
- How will people know if their vehicle complies?
- How will people understand what type of zone they are entering and whether their vehicle is affected?
- How will people know where to pay, and by when?
- How will visitors understand what is required of them?
- How will they know what avoiding action they can take as they approach a charging CAZ?