Birmingham's Clean Air Zone Delayed
18 June 2019, 14:31 | Updated: 18 June 2019, 14:34
It will be at least July 2020 before the most polluting vehicles are charged for coming into the city centre.
The introduction of Clean Air Zones to cut pollution in Birmingham and Leeds has been "significantly postponed" due to a delay in delivering a vehicle checking system.
Birmingham City Council said its new zone - due to become operational in January 2020 - would now come into force in July next year at the earliest.
In a joint statement with the West Midlands local authority, Leeds City Council said the "extremely disappointing" delay was due to the Government's failure to meet its own commitments to provide digital systems.
The vehicle checking tools, required to make the zones operational and enforceable, should have been ready by October this year but will now be unavailable until at least December.
The councils' statement said: "Both Birmingham City Council and Leeds City Council had been on track to implement Clean Air Zones on the basis that a vehicle checker tool, which is being delivered by the Government's Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), would be ready by October 2019 as planned.
"However, JAQU has now confirmed that the vehicle checker will not be available until at least December 2019 - leaving just weeks before the zones were due to come into force in January 2020."
The original plans for Clean Air Zones in Birmingham and Leeds came after the Government identified that parts of each city were likely to fail legal air quality standards by 2020.
Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment at Birmingham City Council, said the authority had been fully on track to implement the Clean Air Zone from January next year.
But he added: "The delivery of this essential online tool has now been delayed to December 2019, which means we are unable to go ahead with our Clean Air Zone in January as planned, as this would be completely unfair on residents, businesses and visitors to the city who would only have a matter of weeks, if not days, to make key choices about their travel behaviour.
"This is simply unacceptable.
"While this does mean people will have longer to make these changes, it will also delay Birmingham in achieving air quality compliance, leaving our city exposed to dirty air for longer than anticipated."
Leeds City Council's deputy leader, James Lewis, said: "Leeds City Council has worked incredibly hard to make sure that the Clean Air Zone would be delivered on time, successfully meeting a number of challenging deadlines set by the Government.
"Many local businesses have similarly invested both time and money into ensuring their own preparedness for January.
"Despite this delay we will continue to financially support owners of affected vehicles switching to less polluting models that will not be charged, as doing so is the best way to improve air quality prior to the charging zone's introduction."
Work to install the camera infrastructure required for the zone will begin within the next few weeks as planned, Mr Lewis added.
"The Government now needs to outline new timescales that they are confident can be delivered in order to give residents and businesses across the country clarity and certainty about the future of these schemes," he added.