Birm­ing­ham’s 2020 Clean Air Zone won’t charge ve­hi­cles of his­toric in­ter­est, but the de­ci­sion to charge mod­ern clas­sics has left lo­cals and clubs di­vided

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

Birm­ing­ham has un­veiled its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for 2020 – and will charge own­ers of any pre-Euro 4 petrol and Euro 6 diesel cars for en­ter­ing it. Based on the city’s Mid­dle Ring Road (A4540), it will cost be­tween £6 and £10 a day to en­ter.

Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil con­firmed to Clas­sic Car Weekly that tax-ex­empt clas­sics will not pay the CAZ sup­ple­ment. Free en­try will be granted on a rolling ba­sis – as a new wave of clas­sics turns 40 years old, their road tax sta­tus will al­low them into the CAZ with­out charge, en­forced by Au­to­matic Num­ber Plate Recog­ni­tion (ANPR) cam­eras.

How­ever, Birm­ing­ham’s emis­sions cut-off point in CAZ billing has prompted de­bate among lo­cal en­thu­si­asts – and at­tracted the ire of John-Joe Vol­lans, the ed­i­tor of CCW’s sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion, Mod­ern Clas­sics. Apart from be­ing con­cerned at the loss of up­com­ing and fu­ture clas­sic ve­hi­cles, John-Joe pointed out that the front straight of Birm­ing­ham’s leg­endary 1986-1990 Su­per­prix cir­cuit formed the bot­tom south-east cor­ner of the CAZ.

Hit­ting pock­ets hard

He said: ‘It is dis­ap­point­ing that Birm­ing­ham, a city with such an im­por­tant place in mo­tor­ing his­tory, has taken this view. The next gen­er­a­tion of car en­thu­si­asts is be­ing for­got­ten. Drill down into the me­chan­ics of this and it seems to say, “You can come into the town cen­tre as long as you pay”. If the coun­cil were se­ri­ous about air qual­ity it would take a much more dras­tic ap­proach; this is sim­ply a way to ex­tract cash from road users ei­ther un­will­ing or un­able to af­ford a newer car, while at the same time be­ing seen to be do­ing some­thing about what’s in the news, with­out giv­ing it much thought.’

A pub­lic re­port filed by Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil on 10 Septem­ber con­firmed that own­ers of non­com­pli­ant ve­hi­cles liv­ing within the bound­aries of the CAZ would be ex­empt from CAZ billing. For own­ers of mod­ern clas­sics liv­ing out­side the CAZ, who com­mute for work and for shop­ping – like Erd­ing­ton res­i­dent Lewis Bar­nett – the CAZ will hit pock­ets hard. Lewis, who reg­u­larly uses a 1994 Citroën Xan­tia tur­bod­iesel for work and per­sonal jour­neys, would pay ev­ery day he goes to work – as his em­ployer’s car park is within the CAZ. He also felt that the di­ver­sions put in place to avoid CAZ pric­ing would cre­ate grid­lock. He said: ‘They’ve in­cluded the A38 tun­nels (two lanes per di­rec­tion of travel) and are di­vert­ing it on to smaller, sin­gle-car­riage­way roads that are al­ready blocked up at rush hour. Add all the ad­di­tional traf­fic that’ll be avoid­ing the charge­able zone there and noth­ing will move.’

Scrap­page scheme po­ten­tial

More wor­ry­ing is that Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil hasn’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of mar­ket­ing a scrap­page scheme to those af­fected by the CAZ, who may drive a mod­ern clas­sic out of ne­ces­sity rather than pref­er­ence. A pub­lic re­port men­tions a tar­geted scrap­page scheme for non-com­pli­ant cars; up to £2000 would be on the ta­ble per mo­torist if the gov­ern­ment agreed for the sums to come out of the Clean Air Fund.

Ian McCauley, founder of the lo­cal The New Un­named Clas­sic Car Group (TNUCCG), was re­lieved that the CAZ band­ing left out mod­ern clas­sics; for him, it helped to clar­ify the dis­tinc­tion be­tween his­toric ve­hi­cles and up­com­ing clas­sics. Us­age was a key fac­tor; Ian agrees with the FBHVC’s def­i­ni­tion of his­toric ve­hi­cles mak­ing neg­li­gi­ble con­tri­bu­tions to air qual­ity be­cause of low an­nual mileages; a 2016 sur­vey found that the av­er­age an­nual clas­sic car mileage was 1124.

Ian said: ‘Per­son­ally, I don’t have an is­sue with “mod­ern clas­sics” be­ing sub­ject to the CAZ charge while older ve­hi­cles will be ex­empted. As I un­der­stand it, tax ex­emp­tion was orig­i­nally granted on the ba­sis of lim­ited use and the un­der­stand­ing that very few older clas­sics are in daily use. Con­versely, most mod­ern clas­sics are fully ca­pa­ble of reg­u­lar use and in the case of my re­cently sold daily driver 1992 Mer­cedes 190E quite adept at cov­er­ing 40,000 miles a year with ease.

‘On that ba­sis why should mod­ern clas­sics en­joy the same perks as older cars that are driven once or twice a month and prob­a­bly never com­mute into city cen­tres?’

birm­ing­ pol­lu­tion/1763/a_­clean_air_­zone_ for_birm­ing­ham

Own­ing a mod­ern clas­sic built dur­ing the hey­day of Birm­ing­ham’s city cen­tre Su­per­prix will get a lot more ex­pen­sive from 2020.

Erd­ing­ton res­i­dent Lewis Bar­nett says that his 1994 Citroën Xan­tia 1.9 TD would be hit.

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