Birmingham's Clean Air Zone: Small business owner in despair as new charge comes into force
Drivers could be hit with fines of up to £120 if they don't follow the new rules
A Birmingham make-up artist told GB News her business could be crippled by the new Clean Air Zone charge, which comes into force today.
Ravita Pannu, from Walsall, was visibly distressed as she spoke on The Great British Breakfast about the impact the charge is already having on her business.
"As a makeup artist who has been affected by the pandemic, I'm very concerned," she told the panel.
"Weddings are still under scrutiny. The charge has already had an impact and this is through conversations I've had with clients.
"They're questioning the charges and choosing not to book client aren't prepared to pay the charges. I just don't know what we're going to do as a business, or do we impose charge on customer?
"I'm all for a cleaner planet but I just think it's really bad timing."
The new charge means cars will have to pay £8 a day to drive through the zone, whilst buses and HGV drivers will pay £50 per day.
The charges are active 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and if you don't follow the rules, you could be fined up to £120. It's all part of a bid to clean up the air and emissions around the UK's second city.
The scheme was originally due to go live during 2020 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Coaches, buses and HGVs which do not meet minimum requirements face a £50 charge for entering the zone, which covers all roads within the A4540 Middleway ring road.
The AA said 100,000 vehicle owners will be affected, with the financial burden falling on lower-income and younger drivers. Similar plans for London and Bristol could hit 600,000 car owners, according to the motoring organisation.
AA president Edmund King said: “Poor air quality is a threat that the majority of drivers agree needs to be addressed and reduced; in due course electric vehicles will largely eradicate those emissions.
“However, the car CAZs in Bristol and Birmingham and the extended Ultra Low Emission Zone in London are very blunt tools that create a tax burden for low-income families and workers.”
He added: “These drivers are least able to afford to replace the vehicles they depend on for work, often night shifts, and sometimes emergencies such as going to hospital or healthcare centres. “They are also the ones least able to pay the fines.”
The city council, which is offering exemption permits for in-zone residents, said the initiative is crucial to improving air quality and public health in central Birmingham. It has set up a £10 million scheme offering £2,000 grants to support people working in the CAZ, and who earn less than £30,000 per annum, with the option of scrapping a vehicle that would otherwise be subject to the daily fee.