Clean Air Zone impact in Bath gives hope for Birmingham scheme success

A drop in air pollution levels in Bath is a possible indicator of “greater benefits” for Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, legal advisers have said.

Birmingham's Clean Air Zone was introduced in June
Birmingham's Clean Air Zone was introduced in June

Average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations within Bath’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) are 12.6 per cent lower following the first quarter of the measures being in place compared to the same period in 2019.

The figures are given in a report due to go before Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet on September 9.

Bath’s CAZ – which launched in March – applies to taxis, private hire vehicles, vans, light goods vehicles, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles with many cars not having to pay a charge.

A legal adviser who worked on both zones has said Bath’s success could precede similar achievements for Birmingham’s CAZ – launched in June with charges commencing from June 14 including for private cars.

Rahul Bijlani, legal director at BDB Pitmans LLP which advised on Birmingham and Bath’s CAZs, said the Bath results are encouraging.

He said: “Birmingham may be looking at greater benefits than Bath.

“London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is effectively a Category D zone [the same as Birmingham’s] and showed a third decrease in NO2 in the first six months.

“You could potentially be looking at some quite significant reductions in Birmingham.”

Asked what he would say to residents who do not agree with the CAZ, he said: “I completely understand why you might be opposed to it.

“It’s a significant imposition. But the ULEZ in London is now receiving majority support.

“You can’t see NO2, you can’t smell it. But it is a substantial health risk. Once a scheme has been in place for a while and people feel the benefits, perhaps it will see more widespread support.”

Early results from Birmingham City Council’s analysis of the city’s CAZ showed more than 44,000 people were fined for non-payment of the charge in the first month.

And the percentage of cars entering the CAZ which were non-compliant – highly-polluting – dropped from 18 per cent to 12 per cent in the first month, which was hailed as a success.

The CAZ is being introduced to tackle poor air quality in the city responsible for a reported 900 deaths per year.

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