Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) sign

Clean Air Zones

Clean Air Zones are being rolled out across the UK to try and lower emissions. In this article, Helen Dolphin looks at the towns and cities who are introducing these initiatives. 


Since April 2019 drivers of the most polluting vehicles have had to pay to drive into central London, and in the next few years many other towns and cities across the UK will be following suit. This is because the air quality in many places needs to be improved and one of the ways to improve it is by introducing Clean Air Zones (CAZ).

What is a CAZ?

A CAZ is designed to improve air quality by cutting pollution and encouraging people to drive less polluting vehicles. A CAZ could be just a single road but is usually part of a town or city.

Local Authorities can decide what level of restriction to apply. There are four classes of Clean Air Zone:

1. Class A – Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles

2. Class B – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)

3. Class C – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs)

4. Class D – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs and cars

If charging is part of the CAZ then local authorities can only set charges at levels designed to reduce pollution, and not use them to raise additional revenue. Where charges are imposed most councils plan to use automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR) to track vehicles and check their emission rating.

Cities which have introduced a CAZ

Bath

Aerial view of Pulteney bridge in Bath, England

Bath launched the first CAZ on the 15 March 2021. It is a class C zone so non-compliant trucks, buses, coaches and taxis will be charged to drive in the city centre. Non-compliant buses, coaches and lorries will be charged £100 a day, while taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses will pay £9. Private cars and motorbikes will not be charged.

Glasgow

Glasgow’s low-emission zone came into force on 31 December 2018. At the moment only local buses in the centre of the city are affected. However, in 2023 the council plans to extend restrictions to all vehicles, including older petrol and diesel cars. The zone will cover the same central area, which is bordered by the River Clyde, M8 and High Street. The vehicle criteria and fine amount has not yet been announced.

London

An Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in central London in April 2019. The area currently covered by the ULEZ is the same area as the Congestion Charging Zone. However, from 25 October 2021, the ULEZ is expanding from central London to create a single, larger zone up to, but not including, the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205). The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Buses, coaches and lorries not meeting the Euro 6 standard are charged £100 per day, while cars not meeting the Euro 6 or Euro 4 requirements are charged £12.50. Vehicles registered with a disabled tax class are exempt from the ULEZ charge until 26 October 2025.

Oxford

Oxford. UK

Oxford has had a low emission zone in place since 2014 but it has so far only affected buses. However, the council is set to become the first city to introduce a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in summer 2021 which would be introduced for a small area in the centre of Oxford, around Cornmarket Street. In addition, further restrictions are planned for non-local buses, vans and lorries from 2025. Those restrictions will extend to all vehicles by 2035, but other vehicles may still be able to drive in the city centre for a fee. 

Cities which are planning a CAZ

Birmingham 

It is expected that Birmingham’s class D CAZ will come into operation on 1 July 2021. It will cover an area of the city inside the inner ring road (A4540 Middleway). Buses, coaches and lorries not meeting the Euro 6 emission standard will be charged £50 per day, while cars not meeting the Euro 6 or Euro 4 requirements will be charged £8. Vehicles registered with a disabled tax class won’t have to pay a charge and this includes Motability Scheme vehicles.

Bradford

It is expected a Class C CAZ will be introduced in October 2021. Non-compliant vehicles will face daily charges of up to £50.

Bristol

Above the city. Aerial view of streets and houses in Bristol, England.

It is expected that Bristol City Council will introduce a small Class D CAZ in it city centre from October 29 2021. The proposed CAZ will see all non-compliant vehicles charged if they enter the area. Private cars, taxis and vans will be charged £9 per day and buses, coaches and HGVs will be charged £100 per day. There will be a one year exemption however for people on low incomes and hospital visitors.

Leicester

A Class B CAZ is expected in summer 2021 around the city’s inner ring road.

Manchester

Transport for Greater Manchester has suggested that a CAZ is under consideration for private-hire vehicles, buses and HGVs. It is expected in summer 2021.

Newcastle

The Tyne Bridge across the river Tyne in Newcastle

A CAZ is expected in 2021. The zone won’t affect most motorists because it doesn’t apply to cars. Only buses, HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles that fail to meet the required emissions standards will have to pay a daily fee to enter the zone. Non-compliant HGVs, buses and coaches will be charged £50, while taxis and vans will be charged £12.50. Charging private cars has not been ruled out if further action to slash pollution is needed.

Portsmouth

A class B CAZ is expected in November 2021 but the final details have not yet been released.

Sheffield

Currently plans for a CAZ are on hold.  However, Sheffield plans to implement a Class C CAZ  sometime in 2021.The CAZ will cover the inner ring road and the city centre, including Park Square and the A61/Parkway junction. There are no plans to charge private cars, but the most polluting buses, taxis, lorries and vans will be charged for entering the zone.

About the Scheme

The Motability Scheme provides an affordable way for people with disabilities to lease a car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle scooter or powered wheelchair in exchange for their qualifying mobility allowance. Insurance, breakdown assistance, servicing and maintenance is already arranged and included in the price you pay, so you can enjoy the freedom that comes with a worry-free lease.

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