Currently reading: Clean Air Zones: what you need to know
As more cities join London’s ULEZ, here is your guide to how you could be affected
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12 mins read
24 March 2021

The roll-out of Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs), Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and other pollution-reducing schemes in cities across the UK is accelerating in 2021.

Following the implementation of the UK’s first ULEZ in London in April 2019, similar initiatives will be established in other major cities across England and Scotland.

The cities that have confirmed or expected CAZs are:

Bath - 15 March 2021

Birmingham - 1 June 2021

Leicester (expected) - Summer 2021

Oxford (expected) - August 2021

Bradford (expected) - October 2021

London - 25 October 2021

Bristol (expected) - 29 October 2021

Portsmouth - November 2021

Manchester - Spring 2022

Glasgow - Between February and May 2022

Edinburgh - Between February and May 2022

Dundee - Between February and May 2022

Aberdeen - Between February and May 2022

The cities that are planning CAZs are:

Newcastle - 2021

Sheffield - 2021

WHAT ARE CLEAN AIR ZONES AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

The basic premise of CAZs is similar to that of congestion zones. An area is marked out within a city, usually focused on the city centre. Vehicles travelling within this zone and judged to be excessively polluting face charges, depending on the size of the vehicle.

Larger vehicles like HGVs, coaches and buses that do not meet emissions requirements (explained in more detail below) are charged around £100, although this varies between cities. Private hire cars, taxis and regular passenger vehicles that are non-compliant can expect to pay less, but still incur a charge of around £10 a day.

Like London’s already existing ULEZ, the CAZs will be distinguished by signs to make motorists aware that they are entering the zone. They will also be ring-fenced by numberplate recognition cameras. These make a note of every vehicle that passes through the zone and checks them against a database to determine the charge.

The CAZs will, mostly, be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No reprieve is granted for bank holidays.

WHICH VEHICLES WILL BE AFFECTED?

Since the goal of CAZs is to reduce emissions and improve air quality, zero-emissions vehicles have nothing to fear. However, drivers of vehicles that are not zero-emissions may be liable for charges. Two factors determine whether you will face a charge and at what level: (1) how many emissions your vehicle produces; and (2) what type is it, since, depending on the CAZ class, certain types of vehicles are exempt.

The general rule is that to travel within a CAZ without a charge, your vehicle has to be at least a Euro 4 emission standard compliant petrol model - in other words, registered after January 2006 - or, if it is a diesel, compliant with Euro 6 standards (registered after September 2015). If your vehicle meets these standards, in all probability you will not have to pay a charge.

However, even if your vehicle does fall outside of Euro 4 or 6, you may still be able to avoid a charge, depending on what kind of vehicle it is and the type of CAZ that you wish to drive through. Four types of CAZ exist, each of which targets different classes of vehicles. These are:

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(1) Class A - which targets buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).

(2) Class B - which targets buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs),

(3) Class C - which targets buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs),

(4) Class D, the most wide-ranging - which targets buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs and cars.

Most of the CAZs that are scheduled to be introduced in the UK are Class D. But cities such as Bath and Portsmouth will be Class C only, so in these cities, regular passenger vehicle drivers will not have to pay.

Finally, it is important to note that nearly all CAZs make special exemptions for residents within the zone, Blue Badge holders and vehicles with a disabled tax class, although the scale of the exemption offered varies between cities.

WHICH CITIES ARE GETTING CAZs? 

15 March 2021 - Bath

Zone type: Class C

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £100

Cost per day for taxis: £9

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £0

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The UK’s first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) outside of London launched in Bath. Costing £23 million to implement, the scheme introduces a large Class C zone, encompassing Bath city centre, Kingsmead, Walcot, Bathwick and the Royal Victoria Park. The zone’s Class C status means that HGVs, buses, coaches and taxis are charged to enter the zone if they are judged to be polluting – ie are either pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles or pre-Euro 4 petrol vehicles – but regular passenger cars used for private use can still drive through and within the zone normally without incurring a fee. For drivers that fall foul of the CAZ, the charge differs depending on vehicle type. HGVs, coaches and buses will incur a charge of £100 a day to enter the zone, whereas taxis will be charged only £9.

1 June 2021 - Birmingham

Zone type: Class D

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £50

Cost per day for taxis: £8

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £8

Birmingham was originally supposed to gain a CAZ last year, but the launch date was pushed back to this summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The CAZ will span all roads within Birmingham’s A4540 Middleway Ring Road, exempting the ring road itself, and is a Class D zone. This means that, unlike Bath’s Class C set-up, regular passenger car drivers can incur charges for using the zone, alongside HGV, bus, coach and taxi drivers. Compared with Bath, however, the CAZ is smaller.

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The charges will be lower, too. HGVs, buses and coaches will have to pay £50 a day to use the zone. For all other vehicles, the charge is reduced to £8. Vehicles with a disabled or disabled passenger tax class are permanently exempt from the CAZ, as are historic vehicles over 40 years old, motorcycles and school buses. Further, temporary exemptions are available for residents, who will be exempt for two years before they have to pay, and people on low incomes, who get a one-year exemption before paying. In contrast to other CAZs, Birmingham will not give an exemption for Blue Badge holders.

The zone is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including bank holidays.

Summer 2021 - Leicester (expected)

Zone type: Class B

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £50 (est)

Cost per day for taxis: £8 (est)

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £0

Leicester is aiming to implement a CAZ by the end of summer 2021, although it is currently pencilled to be only a small Class B zone, spanning the city’s inner ring. Due to its Class B status, the CAZ would only target polluting taxis, buses and coaches, but not private car drivers or van drivers. While charges have not been confirmed yet, city authorities have said that they are aiming to introduce charges that are in line with what will be instituted in Birmingham. This would see non-compliant HGVs, buses and coaches charged £50 per day to use the zone. Passenger cars would be able to move freely within the zone, while non-compliant taxis would be charged £8.

August 2021 - Oxford

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Zone type: Unknown

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £2, £4 or £10

Cost per day for taxis: £2, £4 or £10

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £2, £4 or £10

Oxford will technically gain a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ), which is similar to a CAZ but more versatile. First proposed in 2015, the zone is set to be implemented in August, subject to approval from Oxford County Council and Oxford City Council. It is expected to encompass a handful of streets in Oxford’s city centre, including St Michael’s Street and New Inn Hall Street, before being expanded to enfold the entire city.

The zone is less punishing than most other CAZs. It will not, for instance, be operational 24/7, instead being active only between 7am and 7pm, although it will be in place every day. Charges will be much lower than in every other city. Zero-emission vehicles will be able to use the zone free of charge, but other vehicles will be charged between £2 and £10 a day to enter the area.

Vehicles that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 will incur a £2 charge, rising to £4 in August 2025. Drivers of vehicles that use either Euro 4 petrol motors or Euro 6 diesels will be charged £4 (rising to £8). For more polluting vehicles, the charge is £10 (rising to £20).

Discounts on the charges will be available to those already living within the zone, business vehicles, Blue Badge holders and vehicles with a disabled tax class.

October 2021 - Bradford (expected)

Zone type: Class C

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £50 (est)

Cost per day for taxis: £12.50 (LGVs and minibuses £9) (est)

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £0

Plans for a CAZ in Bradford rely on a successful bid for £60 million government support, but should this be approved, the city will look to adopt a CAZ in its centre and surrounding areas in October 2021. HGVs, buses and coaches that are not Euro 6 compliant will be charged £50 a day to enter the zone, which will run 24/7, while LGVs and minibuses will be charged £9. Taxis and private hire vehicles will pay a middling £12.50 per day if they cannot meet emissions standards while regular passenger car drivers avoid fees under the current plans. Alongside the zone, Bradford City Council will also take measures to encourage taxis to change to plug-in hybrids and electric cars. An electric bus rollout is also planned, including the creation of 1000 park and ride routes.

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25 October 2021 - London

Zone type: ULEZ

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £100

Cost per day for taxis: £12.50

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £12.50

As the UK’s largest city, London has historically been at the forefront of green innovation. It is therefore no surprise that the city will continue to tighten regulations around driving in 2021.

Everything you need to know about London's ULEZ 

A new zone will be achieved this year by expanding the extant Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), introduced in April 2019, from its current position in central London to the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205), excluding the circular roads themselves. Like the current ULEZ, the expanded scheme will operate all of the time. Cars, vans and motorcycles that do not meet Euro 4 or Euro 6 (depending on the type of vehicle) standards will incur a charge. This will be set at £12.50 for cars, vans and bikes. Buses and coaches will need to pay £100 to use the zone, unless they fall into a disabled or disabled passenger vehicle tax class.

One final important change is pencilled for 25 October: from this date, hybrid vehicles will no longer be exempt from ULEZ fees.

29 October 2021 - Bristol

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Zone type: Class D

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £100

Cost per day for taxis: £9

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £9

Bristol will adopt what’s known as a Small CAZ D. This will cover a relatively small area but restricts both older, more polluting private cars and commercial vehicles. The zone, which will operate at all times, including bank holidays, will comprise a relatively small area spanning Bristol centre to Temple Quay and the immediate surroundings. Non-compliant LGVs, buses, coaches and taxis as well as non-compliant private vehicles will incur charges for entering the zone. The charge will be set at £100 per day for larger vehicles and £9 per day for private ones. However, several exemptions to the charge will be put in place. People who already live within the CAZ will not have to pay a charge for at least a year after the zone is implemented, nor will Bristol-based Blue Badge holders or low-income drivers who have to enter the zone for work. Vehicles visiting hospitals in the zone also dodge the charge, as do vehicles with disabled tax status.

November 2021 - Portsmouth (expected)

Zone type: Unknown

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £50 (est)

Cost per day for taxis: £10 (est)

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £10 (est)

Portsmouth’s CAZ plan is expected to achieve government approval in the next few months, before work begins on installing the zone in the summer ahead of its expected launch in November 2021. The zone is proposed to stretch from where the M275 meets the city, down Kingston Road and Fratton Road to Gunwharf Quays and back up to the M275, encompassing Portsmouth University, the city’s main shopping centre and the harbour. Non-compliant HGVs, buses and coaches will be charged £50 to enter the zone, falling to £10 for non-compliant taxis and private hire vehicles. Vehicles with a disabled tax class and military vehicles are exempt from the charge.

Spring 2022 - Manchester (expected)

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Zone type: Class C

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £60, vans £10 (est)

Cost per day for taxis: £7.50 (est)

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £0

Manchester’s CAZ will be the largest of its kind if it comes into effect, as expected, in 2022. Although a precise date has yet to be confirmed for the zone, all signs point to it going live in spring 2022, with final confirmation of the zone and a date expected this summer. The government has asked Manchester to introduce a Class C CAZ so, as in Bath, restrictions and charges will only apply to HGVs, buses, coaches, vans, taxis and private hire vehicles. For now, regular passenger cars are exempt. The zone will run seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and, like other zones on this list, will be policed by automatic numberplate recognition cameras. Charges will be issued according to emissions bracket and vehicle type and will be paid via a government-run site, but if currently planned rates are kept, Manchester will be one of the less penal CAZs. HGVs, buses and coaches that are non-compliant will pay £60 to use the zone, falling to £10 for vans. Passenger cars enter for free. However, taxis will have to pay £7.50. Exemptions will be available for emergency vehicles, certain historic cars and vehicles with disabled tax classes.

February and May 2022 - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen

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Zone type: Unknown

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: Unknown

Cost per day for taxis: Unknown

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: Unknown

In the spring to summer of 2022, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen will all gain CAZs, called Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in Scotland. Details remain scarce, other than a general push to implement these zones. The vehicles that are likely to be affected include bus or goods vehicles that do not meet Euro 6 standards, diesel cars that do not meet Euro 6 standards and petrol cars that do not meet Euro 4 standards. While charges also have yet to be suggested, Aberdeen City Council has confirmed that it will implement a grace period for the zone. This will be at least one year and possibly up to four years for non-residents and commercial vehicles, with an allowance for up to another two years’ exemption for residents within the zone.

EXPECTED BUT DATE UNKNOWN

Newcastle

Zone type: Class C

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £50 (est)

Cost per day for taxis: £12.50, vans also £12.50 (est)

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £0

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Newcastle was originally set to launch a CAZ in January 2021. However, the plan has been pushed back, due to a combination of the government being “ill-prepared” (according to Newcastle Council cabinet member Arlene Ainsley) and the fallout from an ongoing legal challenge by a company that lost its bid to provide numberplate recognition cameras to police the zone. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that Newcastle will gain a CAZ, although the precise date is uncertain. Focused on the city centre, it is currently set to be Class C, so skipping regular passenger cars. Assuming the January 2021 rates remain constant, which seems likely, HGVs, buses and coaches will be charged £50 to enter Newcastle’s city centre. Taxis and vans will pay £12.50.

Sheffield

Zone type: Class C

Cost per day for HGVs, buses and coaches: £50 (est)

Cost per day for taxis: £10, vans and lorries also £10 (est) 

Cost per day for regular passenger cars: £0

The prospect for Sheffield’s CAZ is less certain than Newcastle’s. Originally, a CAZ was set to be introduced later this year, but the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on air pollution - this has fallen up to 33% from 2019 levels - has caused city councillors to reconsider. The zone, as it is currently proposed, will be Class C, overlooking regular passenger traffic but penalising polluting HGVs, coaches and taxis. It is pencilled to cover Sheffield’s inner ring road and city centre, including Park Square. Under the current proposals, fees for the zone would have been in line with those for cities such as Newcastle, with non-compliant HGVs and buses charged £50 for entry, falling to £10 for taxis, vans and lorries.

Others

Leeds and Liverpool were scheduled to receive CAZs. However, both cities have put plans on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Leeds, this is likely to be  indefinitely since air quality has been judged to be regularly below the level that would legally require a CAZ. Nottingham has also cancelled its plans for a CAZ, instead opting to reduce air pollution by refitting buses and converting council-owned vehicles to hybrid or electric powertrains. In Cambridge, discussions to introduce a CAZ are ongoing but a decision has not been reached either way.

READ MORE

Bath instates UK’s first Clean Air Zone in city centre 

Government delays Clean Air Zone roll-out until 2021 

Update: Bristol joins Leeds in reversing plans for Clean Air Zone

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GiftedLobster 24 March 2021

Its all well and good local authorities introducing charges for non compliant vehicles but they need to ensure that the data base they are using to check vehicles is accurate. My vehicle is a euro 6 diesel yet when I use the Birmingham CAZ checker it states I will have to pay the charge however checking it on the London CAZ show my car is compliant. Local authorities could potentially be charging owners when they are not entitled to.

Peter Cavellini 24 March 2021

Not going to affect us unduly, we , if we're going into the City we Park up at the Railway Station and go that way, it's less stressful,no worry about parking, time and so on,and especially over the last year, Air has been getting better in heavily populated areas like these, so charging to try and discourage people from using there cars unless they have a disability, which should be free, I hope, Cities I assume have become a bit healthier for people who live and work there.

405line 24 March 2021

"The general rule is that to travel within a CAZ without a charge, your vehicle has to be at least a Euro 4 emission standard compliant petrol model - in other words, registered after January 2006" - No, least not for London ULEZ, the car only has to have a Euro4 standard engine  of whatever vintage my car is 2002 petrol and is compliant with ULEZ, diesel needs to be Euro6 just so people don't assume they have to get rid of their vehicle as the article suggest because of it's year of manufacture.

superstevie 25 March 2021

I think it is the wording of this that is wrong. Euro 4 will have come in to force in Jan 2006, but many cars were built to that standard way before then. My 2004 Smart Roadster is Euro 4 compliant, so it will be fine in these zones. 

superstevie 25 March 2021

Also, just to clarify, I meant Autocar's wording was wrong, not yours lol

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