BRUM AIRS DEBATE
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
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?’
birmingham.gov.uk/info/20076/ 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.