In honour of national clean air day the mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority has called on the Government to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme in the region.
Conservative Andy Street, who came to power in the May local government elections, addressed the issue of poor air quality in his area, which is one of many places in the UK to fail to meet EU air quality standards.
He said that while more long-term 'dramatic' solutions were needed, including moving away 'from the traditional combustion engine', in the short-term schemes such as financial incentives to get people to trade in polluting diesel vehicles would help.
'Air pollution in towns and cities here in the West Midlands is a really serious issue and a genuine concern for people. The statistics for the region – particularly in terms of the levels of nitrogen dioxide – are troubling and they stem primarily from the congestion on our roads,' he said.
The Government has battled with lawyers at ClientEarth over its plans to address air quality. It has already lost two court cases over the issue and is now facing a third as its latest draft air quality plan is set to go before the courts.
ClientEarth, which brought the High Court case requiring ministers to rewrite their initial national air quality plan, has returned to the courts to challenge the new draft plan, even though the consultation on the plan runs until 15 June.
A central part of the plans is to introduce Clean Air Zones in cities that have fallen below EU standards. However Mr Street said this was not enough.
He commented: 'The Government’s Clean Air Zone for Birmingham puts the onus on the city council to make proposals on how this will be implemented. The West Midlands Combined Authority, through its responsibilities for transport must support the city. One option is charging the most polluting vehicles to enter those zones.
'This can’t be just about charging, however. We need to encourage different behaviour. In London, for example, there are proposals for a scrappage scheme for diesel cars and we would need that to be extended to the West Midlands.'
He also hilighted plans to boost public transport in the region, including 'reopening railway lines, about extending the Metro system across the region, about making it easier to cycle and about encouraging cleaner buses'.
Mr Street added: 'We are currently submitting a bid to Government to create a National Battery Prototype Centre in Coventry which, if successful, would drive the delivery of the national electrification agenda and potentially lead to production of electric vehicles here in the West Midlands.'