An increasing number of towns and cities across Britain are introducing restrictions on drivers.
Earlier this year Manchester’s rival for second city status joined a list of 20 towns and cities that already have or plan to introduce bans or emissions zones on cars.
With plans to be carbon neutral by 2030, Birmingham will ban vehicles from driving across the city. This slightly controversial scheme was borrowed from Ghent in Belgium and will require drivers to exit the city centre via a redesigned ring road rather than cutting across the city.
The Birmingham restrictions also include a workplace parking levy, an extension of controlled parking zones and 20mph speed limits in residential areas.
In 2019, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) announced plans for its own restrictions, but they are not as strict as the policies set to be introduced in Birmingham.
Under the GMCA plans which have not been confirmed, high-polluting buses, lorries and taxis will be fined for driving in Greater Manchester, but privately owned vehicles will not be affected.
Set to be introduced in 2021, non-compliant buses and lorries will be charged £100 per day for driving in the ‘Clean Air Zone’. Non-compliant taxis will pay £7.50 per day and vans will pay the same amount from 2023.
A funding row has delayed the plans, however. The GMCA had asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for £116m of funding to help drivers and public transport companies buy modern vehicles from the summer of 2021.
But Defra only committed to £36m to create a network of cameras to catch those breaking the new rules.
Environmental groups have criticised the plans for not going far enough. Friends of the Earth said “all vehicle types”, including private vehicles, should be included in the charging zone.
Others, meanwhile, have condemned the scheme as a ‘tax-raising scam’. Stockport councillor John Wright said he believed that the cash generated would not be reinvested in efforts to reduce pollution and improve public transport.
He said: “I can’t get out of my head that this is another tax-raising scheme – and I say this because I remember the road fund licence was supposed to go on roads and be spent in its entirety on roads, and now it’s just another part of general taxation.
Major towns and cities have taken different approaches to tackle the air pollution problem.
Bristol wants to ban private diesel vehicles from entering the city centre at certain times from 2021. This policy is subject to government approval.
Newcastle City Council has agreed to impose a clean air toll that would charge buses and HGVs £50 to enter the city centre from 2021.
York plans to ban private cars from its medieval city centre by 2023 and London has introduced an Ultra Low Emission Zone which sees higher-polluting vehicles charged up to £100 to drive through the centre.