Birmingham City Council has launched a research project to help it develop plans for a Clean Air Zone.
But a senior councillor has stressed that the authority is ‘not talking about issuing fines or charges at this stage’.
The Government announced plans last December to introduce Clean Air Zones in five cities by 2020, including Birmingham, but has said that they will not affect private car owners.
The new project, developed by Birmingham City Council in collaboration with Amey and Siemens, involves deploying seven automatic number plate recognition cameras – but not air quality monitoring – on key routes into the city centre.
Birmingham is to have a Clean Air Zone by 2020
The Euro emissions classification of vehicles will then be used to give an indication of the environmental impact of vehicles and explore potential mechanisms to improve air quality in the city centre and develop a Low Emission strategy.
The information gathered will contribute to scoping studies being undertaken by the council and environment department DEFRA ‘to confirm current overall emissions levels and identify tipping points whereby the levels become legally acceptable based on the types of vehicles in use’.
Cllr Lisa Trickett, the council’s cabinet member for sustainability, said: ‘Road transport emissions are reported to account for around 600 premature deaths each year in Birmingham alone – meaning this is a 21st Century public health scandal, and there is no escape from the need to look at how we can reduce these emissions.'
She added: ‘The Government’s announcement of Clean Air Zones for a number of towns and cities entirely justifies the efforts we have been making for some time on this front, however I want it to be made absolutely clear that we are not talking about issuing fines or charges at this stage – we are simply gathering data on the Euro classification of vehicles coming into the city that is essential to informing our clean air plans going forward.
'Any eventual Clean Air Zone would also not apply to private motor vehicles and this is not a congestion charge.’
The trial is using Siemens’ GreenZone system and equipment was installed last month. After an initial commissioning period, data is expected to be collected for a full year from April.
Birmingham is part of the West Midland’s Low Emissions Towns & Cities Project, which is part-funded by DEFRA, and includes resource provision from all seven West Midlands local authorities and their partner organisations.
The Government has submitted information to the European Commission which indicates that the region will not be compliant with current targets until 2025.