Mercedes driver hit with huge £2,340 fine at Birmingham Clean Air Zone slams council for error

A Birmingham Mercedes driver who was fined a whopping £2,340 for driving in the city’s Clean Air Zone has slammed the City Council for wrongfully giving him a traffic ticket. James Hammond, of Minworth in Sutton Coldfield, deliberately bought a 2003 Mercedes S500l, after his existing Mercedes C220 diesel car was found to be in breach of the Council’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) emissions limits.

He then drove to Birmingham CAZ in March and April this year in the newest car, thinking he was fine after checking the car on the government’s clean air zone checker. In the space of a month, James drove in the city 13 times, each time triggering a fine. But as the board took a month to issue the charges, they didn’t know that and ended up with an “unlucky” 13.

He was shocked when the fines started landing on his doormat and immediately checked with the DVLA who confirmed his vehicle was compliant. In total he was handed fines totaling £1,560, but that rose to £2,340 as he appealed.

Read more: Motorist fined £540 after driving through Clean Air Zone

Mr Hammond said the fines are now worth more than his car – but he is appealing them on principle. The problem had been caused when he transferred a private number plate from his old 2000 diesel car to his 2003 5-litre petrol Mercedes. The DVLA confirmed the change had been made, but council systems of Birmingham said his car did not comply.

The company manager, 39, told BirminghamLive: ‘I bought a 2003 petrol model and checked before I could use it in the CAZ. I changed the private plate I had on my old diesel Mercedes for the one from 2003, an S500. It’s a five-litre petrol but it’s compliant, when my 2.2-litre diesel isn’t.

“I got the private ‘V21 JMH’ number plate from the DVLA and had it on the same Mercedes for over 20 years. But after putting it on the ‘new’ Mercedes I have Received numerous CAZ fines, 13 of them, as I had driven in Birmingham and was unaware of the error.

“I called Birmingham City Council after checking the government website for Co2 emission levels and the site said my car was compliant.”

2003 five-litre petrol Mercedes S500 complies with Clean Air Zone rules but with private number plate has resulted in over £2,000 fines

He continued: ‘But the city council said the 2003 diesel was not. I said “I changed the license plate, not the emissions”. They said that given the “V” number plate, they chose the car as a 2000 model, which is not true.

“The DVLA said the 2003 car was a CAZ complaint and also confirmed the number plate had changed. They were so helpful. But the council told me I had to appeal every ticket separately.

“When I spoke to the person from the city council…they treat you like a criminal. He said ‘go online and appeal’. They need training. Sometimes they’re not always right.

Mr Hammond said: ‘Now because the payment deadline has passed they could take my car or come and collect my money, even though I appealed the decision.

“They may take 21 days to respond to the appeal, but you have 14 days to pay a lower fine of £60, or 28 days to pay the higher fine of £120, after that it’s £180. If you realize you’re going to the CAZ with a non-compliant car, you can pay the £8 charge six days in advance or six days after.”

Read more: Make all motorists pay to enter the city center – The Lib Dems’ radical plans for Brum

The frustrated businessman, who lives in Kingsbury Road, added: ‘What I would like to do is help other people who are in the same situation. I am a Mercedes man and could not use my car due to the Clean Air Zone.

“I’m ready to fight it, but someone who’s more vulnerable – a little old lady or a man – and they’re threatened with ushers that they can end up paying when they don’t have to. I was on the phone with the DVLA for 45 minutes on three occasions and on hold for two hours with the council. If you’re vulnerable, it’s a joke.

“The main problem is that the city council does not support a change of license plate. Another is that the fines come about a month after the visit. The first fine I received was for a March 25 trip, but I received it on April 22.

“As I continued to drive I received 13 more fines before I knew the car was a problem. It’s too long. Also the charges shouldn’t increase when you appeal.”

The private number plate had been on the non-compliant diesel Mercedes for over 20 years, but has been replaced by a Birmingham Clean Air Zone authorized petrol car.
The private number plate had been on the non-compliant diesel Mercedes for over 20 years, but has been replaced by a Birmingham Clean Air Zone authorized petrol car.

Birmingham City Council was asked about the issue of private number plates but did not respond. A spokesperson for the authority said: ‘For someone who receives a penalty notice, they can choose to pay the standard fee of £120 or they have the option of a reduced fee, if paid within 14 days.

“Alternatively, if the person believes the penalty notice was issued incorrectly, they may choose to submit a dispute. If someone chooses to challenge a penalty notice, they have up to 28 days from the date the notice was issued and a challenge can be submitted online or by mail.

“To make the process as clear and transparent as possible, the notice of fine includes the grounds for challenge, in accordance with the relevant legislation, and the council has issued clear guidelines on how it considers all representations.

“If someone is unhappy with the council’s decision to dismiss a challenge, there is a further right of appeal or the right to challenge a penalty notice at later stages in the process.”

Have you had any issues with the Clean Air Zone or do you think it works well? Have your say in the comments below.

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