As the Government consults on the introduction of Clean Air Zones, Birmingham City Council has been busy working to establish what this would mean for the city and how it could be implemented.
Birmingham is one of five cities – alongside Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton – required by the Government to have a Clean Air Zone in place by 2020, to ensure compliance with UK and EU air quality legislation and, ultimately, tackle pollution and create a cleaner, healthier environment – particularly as figures show that as many as 891 deaths a year in Birmingham alone can be attributed to man-made pollution, mostly through transport and the increased use of diesel vehicles. By contrast, there are fewer than 30 deaths resulting from collisions on Birmingham’s roads each year.
Although the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has this week launched a nationwide consultation asking people for their views on how best to implement Clean Air Zones, Birmingham City Council has already been working towards creating a greener, more sustainable city for a number of years through its Birmingham Connected programme, which aims to transform the way people travel around the city.
Work is now under way on feasibility studies to identify areas of Birmingham where air pollution is at its highest and how a Clean Air Zone would be implemented, while the council will also be consulting with affected groups, including taxi drivers, bus operators, haulage companies and business owners, to find out how measures to reduce air pollution in the city would impact on them. Figures show that bus and taxi drivers are exposed to three times more pollution than anyone else due to them spending more time sitting in traffic.
Councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “We cannot afford to be complacent about air pollution. It has been linked to cancer, diabetes, asthma, stroke and heart disease, and also hundreds of deaths each year in Birmingham alone – this is completely unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.
“Birmingham is a rapidly growing city, with an increasing number of people choosing to live and work here, so we need to take action now to bring down pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter which have the most impact on health, for the good of all our citizens and visitors, ensuring we are compliant by 2020.
“We are already working to identify the areas with the most serious pollution, what is causing it and how we will reduce it over the next three years and beyond. This could include replacing older, polluting vehicles with modern, cleaner versions, discouraging the most polluting vehicles from entering certain areas of the city, and encouraging people to change their travel behaviour and consider public transport or cycling instead of their cars.
“We want to work closely with as many different groups across the city as possible, including businesses, haulage companies, taxi drivers and bus operators, to understand how a Clean Air Zone would affect them and to ensure that we deliver the best possible strategy for cleaning up our city’s air, so we will be consulting on this. Let’s work together to achieve a cleaner, healthier city for all.”