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Home / News and Insights / Press / “A catalyst for behavioural change” – first clean air zone to include private cars set to launch in Birmingham

Next week, Birmingham City Council will implement the first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the UK to include private vehicles. This follows the city of Bath’s CAZ which came into effect on 16 March 2021.

BDB Pitmans, the law firm advising on the Bath and Birmingham CAZs, as well as 4 other major cities, has suggested this could lead to a sea change in attitudes and pave the way for many more cities to adopt such schemes.

Air quality is increasingly regarded as an important public health issue, highlighted by the recent case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, with air pollution cited by the coroner as a factor in the cause of her death. Road user charging schemes like CAZs can be an effective way to reduce air pollution – London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), for example, saw an estimated 37% reduction in NO2 levels in central London in the ten months after its introduction.

Although such schemes may appear controversial, evidence suggests that upon implementation, they can become popular amongst the public. A survey commissioned by Client Earth showed that 51% of Londoners support the expansion of ULEZ and 68% of the capital’s inhabitants think higher-polluting vehicles should pay more than other vehicles to travel through the city.

Rahul Bijlani, Legal Director at BDB Pitmans, said:

“Birmingham’s CAZ is a landmark in that it is the first scheme outside London to include private cars. It is significant not just for the undoubted air quality benefits it will bring to the people of Birmingham, but for the message it sends nationally.
In the future local authorities are likely to face stricter duties to take action to achieve air quality standards locally. Success in Birmingham could act as a beacon to other authorities, demonstrating that a CAZ is a viable way to improve air quality at the local level and paving the way for more schemes of this kind.
Birmingham and Bath are both nationally-mandated zones aimed specifically at reducing NO2 to legal limits, but we are already seeing other authorities considering ambitious schemes of their own. Oxfordshire, for example, is proposing the UK’s first Zero Emission Zone- focussing on electric vehicles- and schemes of this kind could play a valuable role in reducing CO2 and contributing towards the UK journey towards its net-zero target.
We may find ourselves looking back on the Birmingham CAZ as a pivotal moment that helped transform attitudes towards emissions-based road user charging and act as a catalyst for behavioural change across the country.”

– Ends –

For further information, please contact the BDB Pitmans communications team at Byfield Consultancy on 0207 092 3999 or email bdbteam@byfieldconsultancy.com.

Notes to editors:

  • Research conducted by CBI Economics and commissioned by the Clean Air Fund can be found here.
  • The Client Earth research can be found here.

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