A new funding scheme to help improve air quality in Birmingham has launched today (June 1), with funding available to support schemes in every one of the city’s council wards.

The Brum Breathes Fund will support schemes and projects that improve air quality, encourage active travel and, in doing so, also help to raise awareness of the impact poor air quality can have on health.

The scheme has been launched on the second anniversary of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone and is funded by revenues generated from the scheme.

According to Birmingham City Council, “it will provide single-member council wards with up to £20,000 per year and two-member wards with up to £40,000 per year, each for the next two years.”

In a statement, the council revealed, “applications to the Fund will need to meet specific criteria such as promoting the benefits of cleaner air, supporting active travel and public transport use, or encouraging a greater shift towards zero emissions travel or infrastructure.

“All applications to the Fund will also need the support of the local Councillor (or Councillors for two-member Wards), local Ward forums, and align with the priorities of the local Ward action plan.”

Councillor Liz Clements, Cabinet Member for Transport at Birmingham City Council, said: “We’re committed to helping our residents to achieve their full potential by improving the quality of the air they breathe.

“The Brum Breathes Fund will provide support to local Councillors and community groups to improve air quality in every corner of the city.

“Through the fund, we’re looking to invest in projects such as cycle racks, school traffic exclusion plans, sustainable transport measures and a range of other great ideas for delivering the benefits of clean air to everyone. ”

Since the launch of the Clean Air Zone, the percentage of chargeable vehicles entering the zone has more than halved, according to council figures BCC
Since the launch of the Clean Air Zone, the percentage of chargeable vehicles entering the zone has more than halved, according to Birmingham City Council figures

What is the Clean Air Zone?

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone launched on 1 June 2021 and is a type ‘D’ Zone, which includes most vehicle categories (except for motorcycles).

Other cities to introduce a Clean Air Zone include: Bath (type C), Portsmouth (type B), Bristol (type D), Bradford (type C), Sheffield (type C) and Newcastle (type C).

Since the launch of the Clean Air Zone, the percentage of chargeable vehicles entering the zone has more than halved from 15.2% to 6.6% in March 2023, which means a significant number of people have changed their behaviours as a result of its introduction, helping to improve air quality in the city.

According to Birmingham City Council, the Clean Air Zone generates revenues from two sources, a daily fee that applies to vehicles that do not meet the emission standards of the Zone; and from penalty charges.

For non-compliant passenger cars, vans and taxis, the daily fee is £8 applies. For heavy duty vehicles, coaches etc the daily fee is £50.

The second source of revenue is from penalty charges for non-payment of the correct daily fee within the 13-day payment window. All revenues generated by the scheme have to be used to cover the operation of the scheme.

A council statement reads: “To date the Council has allocated just over £52m of net surplus revenues from the Clean Air Zone to projects such as a trial of hydrogen buses, upgrades to the University train station and improvements to stations on the Camp Hill line, a number of projects within the Cross-City Bus scheme, expansion of the Car Free School Streets programme, development of the next phase of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution, including the creation of the Brum Breathes Fund.”

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