What is the Birmingham Clean Air Zone?

Birmingham is home to one of an increasing number of Clean Air Zones in the UK. Here’s everything you need to know.

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By Cazoo editorial team

Clean air zones, also known as ultra low emission zones or zero emission zones, are designed to improve urban air quality by discouraging the most polluting vehicles from entering those areas. Cars aren’t banned from the zones, but drivers of vehicles which do not have the cleanest engines have to pay a daily charge to travel within those areas.

As of mid-2022s, there are 14 clean air zones either operating or expected to be operating soon in the UK. Bath, Birmingham and Portsmouth are in force, with schemes in Bradford and Bristol to be introduced later in 2022. You can check the clean air zones section of the government website to learn whether you must pay to enter a clean air zone. All you need is your car’s registration number.

What is the Birmingham Clean Air Zone?

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone was originally scheduled to go live in 2020, but it was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It finally went live on 1 June 2021.

The zone was introduced in response to the government’s request for Birmingham City Council to reduce the levels of harmful nitrogen oxide (NO2) in the air. No car is banned from the Clean Air Zone, but drivers of the highest-polluting cars and vans must pay a daily charge for entering the area.

Photo by Matt Boitor on Unsplash

Where is the Birmingham Clean Air Zone?

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone covers all the roads inside the A4540 Middleway Ring Road, but not Middleway itself. The zone covers the whole of the city centre, including the Jewellery Quarter, Digbeth, Deritend, the Chinese Quarter, and the Gay Village, plus areas of Highgate, Newtown, Bordesley and Ladywood.

How do I know when I’ve entered the Birmingham Clean Air Zone?

Birmingham City Council has installed advance warning signs on key routes to inform drivers that they are approaching the Clean Air Zone. These signs have a blue background and are designed to allow motorists to take alternative routes should they wish to avoid entering the zone.

Entry to the Clean Air Zone is marked by signs with a white background that show a cloud symbol and the letter ‘D’ inside a green circle. 

The Clean Air Zone is enforced using 67 ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras to record the registration plate of cars travelling within the area.

Photo by Elliott Brown on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/2jpPPjM)

How much does it cost to drive in the Birmingham Clean Air Zone?

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone operates all year, meaning the charges apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s a Class D zone, which means that petrol engines that meet Euro 4 standards, and diesel engines that meet Euro 6 standards or better, don’t have to pay. 

As our general guide to clean air zones explains, virtually all cars sold new in the UK from 2005, and some from as early as 2001, meet Euro 4 standards. All diesel cars sold new from September 2005, and some from before that date, meet Euro 6 standards. All fully electric cars, along with the vast majority of hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, are free to enter the zone without having to pay. 

You should not, however, assume that your car is compliant in Birmingham just because it meets the requirements for another clean air zone. If in doubt, you can find out for sure by entering your car’s registration number into the government’s online checker.

For non-compliant cars, taxis and LGVs (light goods vehicles), the cost is £8 per day, while coaches, buses and HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) are charged £50 per day. Payment must be made either six days before the date of your visit, on the day of your visit, or six days after the date of the start of your visit. A ‘day’ is defined as midnight to midnight, not 24 hours from the time you enter the zone.

What is the penalty for not paying to enter the Birmingham Clean Air Zone?

You will not receive a notification or alert advising you that you have entered the zone and that a payment is due – it’s up to you to remember to pay. If you don’t pay within 6 days of entering the zone, you will be sent a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) of £120 – this fee is reduced to £60 if you pay it within 14 days of the PCN arriving.

Are there any exemptions for non-compliant vehicles?

Residents living within the Birmingham Clean Air Zone may qualify for a temporary exemption permit. These permits are available to you if you meet all three of these:

  • You live at an address within the Clean Air Zone

  • You are the registered keeper of a non-compliant vehicle, and 

  • The vehicle is registered at the same address

The exemption is available for up to two years from 1 June 2021 (the date the Birmingham zone began), but the window for renewal opens in June 2022. Some people working inside the zone but living outside of it had been exempt from charges, but that exemption has now expired.

Other exemptions include emergency service vehicles, community and school transport, historic vehicles and recovery vehicles. For more information on exemptions, check out the City Council’s #brumbreathes website.

Why does Birmingham need a clean air zone?

As with every clean air zone across the country, the aim of the Birmingham Clean Air Zone is to improve local air quality. According to official figures, air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of up to 1,000 people per year in Birmingham through conditions such as cancer, heart and lung disease.

In March 2022, Birmingham City Council published an interim report on the impact of the Clean Air Zone, which revealed a 13% reduction in the levels of NO2 within the zone when comparing 2019 (pre-pandemic) data to 2021 figures. 

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Main photo by Paul Minami on Unsplash

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