Major cities in the UK are adopting low emission zones to improve air quality
Surely you've heard about London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) - a Government initiative to reduce the city's pollution. It proved to be so effective that the ULEZ area is being extended further in October 2021.
Following the success of ULEZ, the Government has started introducing Clean Air Zones across the whole country.
What is a Clean Air Zone?
A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is a defined area recognised as highly polluted and in which local authority has brought measures in a bid to improve air quality. CAZ can include part of the city or even just a single road and can also include areas in which vehicles not meeting the required emission standards can be charged or fined for entering.
Initially, the Clean Air Zones were supposed to apply only to buses, taxis and HGVs but have since added the non-compliant private vehicles meaning that many non-commercial drivers may be affected, too.
Why the Clean Air Zones are being introduced?
As a long-term strategy, the Government wants to improve the quality of the air across the whole country by encouraging people to use newer and less polluting vehicles. The short-term strategy is to reduce air pollution in areas where it exceeds legal limits.
The implementation of the Clean Air Zones lays in the hands of local authorities. Each UK council had to prepare an Air Quality Improvement Plan which, once approved by the Government, provided the council with the necessary funds to set up the zone.
Are all Clean Air Zones the same?
There are 4 CAZ classes in the UK, marked A to D. It's up to the local authorities to decide what level of restrictions should apply to a particular zone.
Class A - Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles
Class B - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
Class C - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
Class D - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs and cars
What vehicles are exempt from Clean Air Zone restrictions or charges?
If you drive any of the following, you don't need to worry about CAZ at all:
- Buses, coaches and HGVs that meet Euro 6 emissions standards
- Cars, vans and taxis that meet Euro 6 (diesel) or Euro 4 (petrol) emissions standards
- Ultra-low emission vehicles with a significant zero-emission range
How much is the Clean Air Zone charge?
Not every council charges for entering the Clean Air Zone. In fact, local authorities are only allowed to set charges at levels encouraging drivers to switch to less polluting vehicles and not to create an extra revenue exceeding the cost of the scheme.
Use the button below to check if you have to pay to enter the Clean Air Zone.
CAZ payment checker
Cities with Clean Air Zones
Zoom in to check the area you're interested in.
Clean Air Zone expected or being planned
Area required by government to produce a CAZ plan
CAZ not expected or opposed by the local authority
Bath's CAZ has been active since 15th March 2021 and it's a Class Clean Air Zone.
Non-compliant vans, taxis and minibuses will be charged £9, while non-compliant trucks and lorries, and coaches and buses face a daily charge of £100. Since it's a Class C zone, private cars and motorbikes will not be charged.
Birmingham's Class D Clean Air Zone is due to go live from 1st June 2021. Cars, taxis and vans will pay £8 per day to drive into the CAZ in Birmingham, while HGVs, coaches and buses will be charged £50 per day.
If there's no delays, Bristol's Clean Air Zone is going live on 29th October 2021 and will be a Class D zone. Private cars, taxis and vans will be charged £9 per day while buses, coaches and HGVs - £100 per day. Bristol council will allow drivers of non-compliant vehicles to apply for a 12 months exemption.
More cities to join the Clean Air Zone scheme soon
Originally the CAZ was expected to start in October 2021 but this date has now been moved to January 2022. Bradford will introduce a Class C CAZ that covers the majority of Bradford and Shipley. HGVs and buses which breach pollution limits will be charged £50 to enter the city centre, taxis would be charged £12.50, while light goods vehicles, such as minibuses will be charged £9.
Leicester's Class B CAZ plan expected to be introduced in Summer 2021 has been officially scrapped following ‘significant improvements' to air quality.
Class C Clean Air Zone is expected in Spring 2022.
Taxis and private hire vehicles will pay £7.50 to enter, HGVs, buses and coaches - £60. LGV (vans and minibuses) will be charged £10 but only from 2023.
The charging zone, which would affect older buses, HGVs, vans and taxis and was planned to be in place from January 2021, is still expected to go ahead but would now be later in 2021 due to an ongoing legal case. There will be £50 charges for HGVs, buses and coaches and £12.50 for taxis and vans.
Class B Clean Air Zone will be introduced from November 2021 but the final details on the scheme have not been yet released.
Sheffield planned to implement a Class C CAZ in early 2021 but the plans were put on hold as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and are currently under review taking into account the results of the pandemic. Vehicles that do not meet emission standards would be charged £10 per day for polluting LGVs and taxis and £50 per day for coaches, buses and HGVs.
Oxford is taking a step further - Zero Emission Zone
Oxford's Zero Emissions Zone starts to operate from August 2021. Oxford is the first UK city to introduce a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) where all petrol and diesel vehicles will be charged to enter the city centre. The council's proposal outlines two zones: red and green. The red zone includes a small area of the city centre while the green zone will cover the rest of the city centre and offer discounted charges for vehicles that comply with London's ULEZ standards. The red zone will be enforced from 7 am to 7 pm with a £10 charge for all vehicles that exceed the emission limits.
Read more about Oxford’s plans.
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Several UK cities have already adopted Clean Air Zones with more following later this year and in 2022. It's worth checking ahead whether the CAZ plans include your area - a place where you live, work or operate as a business and prepare for the changes where necessary.
The best way to avoid Clean Air Zone charges is by switching to a low-emission or zero-emission vehicle. We can help you replace your old highly polluting van or car with a brand new and more environmentally friendly one in no time, helping you save money every day.
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