Driver who lives 160 miles from Birmingham Clean Air Zone fined £2,280 despite never driving in city

A driver who lives 160 miles away from Birmingham has received 19 fines totalling £2,280 for the Clean Air Zone despite never driving in the city.

Ruth Costello and her VW car which has been subject to 19 PCNs. Photo: Ruth Costello
Ruth Costello and her VW car which has been subject to 19 PCNs. Photo: Ruth Costello

Ruth Costello, 57, a civil servant who lives in West Sussex, has been receiving the £120 penalty charge notices (PCNs) since the launch of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme in June.

But she has never driven to or in Birmingham in the Volkswagen Caravelle she owns – which is listed on the PCNs as having entered the CAZ within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road.

Ms Costello said: “It’s the head-banging frustration. It got to the point where I was going to get new plates for my car – and still might do that.

“I have never driven in Birmingham in a vehicle I own. I am all for a Clean Air Zone – it’s a fantastic idea. But I can’t be the only person who is having this experience.

Referring to the photo of the car included on the PCN, she said: “It’s not even the same type of model as my vehicle.”

She said she believed it was possible a car that has been picked up by the cameras has a similar number plate and a screw placed near one of the letters that has made it look like the registration number is hers.

She has let the council know each time she has received a PCN and had the first seven cancelled but the fines keep coming with the most recent one arriving on Friday.

Each time one arrives she has to challenge it in order to avoid the fine being escalated and estimates she has spent several hours altogether on it.

One of the 19 PCNs received by Ruth Costello

She said she has contacted cabinet member for transport and environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar, and been told it is being looked into.

She has also contacted West Midlands Police and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in case her number plate had been cloned.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said the council could not comment on the case itself.

But they said: “We would encourage anyone who has received a penalty charge notice which they believe to be issued in error to make a representation online or by post. And the penalty charge notice includes the various reasons why a representation may be accepted.

“If someone believes their vehicle registration plate has been ‘cloned’ we would also urge them to contact the police as a crime may have been committed.”

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone has been introduced to tackle air pollution in the city – responsible for a reported 900 deaths per year.

Parts of the city centre have seen nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels fall by as much as 18.97 per cent compared to the same period in 2019 and 2020, it has been reported.

The same reports state there may have been an increase in NO2 of five per cent on the A4540 which encircles the CAZ.

Birmingham City Council has stated 112,000 PCNs related to the CAZ were issued in July – around one in three cases where a non-CAZ compliant "highly polluting" vehicle was subject to a charge.

Ms Costello’s case follows fine warning letters sent to historian Wayne Osborne who lives in Nottingham and a retired engineer who lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland, despite neither of them driving in the city.

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