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Birmingham and Leeds complain over digital system for clear air zones


Birmingham and Leeds City Councils have postponed plans for clean air zones, blaming the unavailability of a promised digital system from central government.

They have issued a joint statement saying that without the system they will be unable to enforce regulations within the relevant zones.

This comes after an acknowledgement from the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) – a joint team from the Department for Transport and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – that the vehicle checker will not be available until December of this year, shortly before the zones were due to come into force next January.

Additionally, the councils said the Government is now expecting local authorities to deliver a system for collecting payments from the owners of non-compliant vehicles that enter the clean air zones, having previously said it would take responsibility for doing so.

On track

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham’s cabinet member for transport and environment, 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.”

Councillor James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, said the Government needs to outline reliable new timescales for delivering the system.

A Government spokesperson responded: “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.”

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