Mastering Clean Air Zones to save on emissions charges
To control climate change and its impacts, the UK government has introduced Clean Air Zones. These aim to improve air quality standards and make the environment better for everyone.
Our guide covers all the key points your business needs to know, with a lowdown on every detail and city. Plus, we’ve got great tips you can use to operate in and around a Clean Air Zone.
(Updated Wed, 12 July 2023)
What’s a Clean Air Zone?
A Clean Air Zone is an area where certain types of vehicles are restricted or must pay a charge to enter.
The zones were introduced to stop harmful impact vehicles affecting the environment, with the goal of protecting air quality and lowering the levels of air pollution, especially from nitrogen dioxide emissions, which can be very harmful to humans and the environment.
What does Clean Air Zone mean?
It means that, for heavily congested areas, Clean Air Zones (CAZs) have been created to reduce air pollution and tackle the effects of climate change.
They include measures like low-emission zones, congestion charges or bans on certain types of vehicles.
There are four types, from Class A to D, and each class includes certain vehicle types:
- Class A includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles.
- Class B includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles.
- Class C includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses.
- Class D includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars and the local authority has the option to include motorcycles.
What are the benefits of having Clean Air Zones?
The goals of the UK government and local authorities have been manifold:
- Improved air quality. CAZs can greatly reduce air pollution levels, which translates into improving public health and reducing the risk of respiratory diseases.
- Encouraging the use of cleaner vehicles. Electric vehicles are free from emissions charges, which the government hopes will increase their usage as more CAZs are introduced. It also plans to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, with hybrid vehicles to follow in 2035 and this may further facilitate their use.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is a serious concern around the world. CAZ can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to fighting climate change.
- Economic benefits. Ultimately, CAZs can boost local economies. Better air quality can mean increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs and overall improved quality of life.
But, as with many government developments, there’s some controversy.
Cost is one of the major issues, as implementing CAZs can be expensive. On top of that, disruption to businesses is another real concern. There are businesses, particularly those that rely on diesel vehicles, that may face financial challenges due to the restrictions imposed by CAZs.
Then there are equity concerns. CAZs may affect certain groups like low-income households and small businesses, who may not be able to afford to upgrade to low-emission vehicles.
Where are the Clean Air Zones in the UK?
There are quite a few across the UK and more will be introduced in the years ahead.
We’re going to dive into details about each city further down below. The cities currently with emission charges are:
- Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside
More are planned to follow:
- Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: Under review. Greater Manchester leaders seem to believe they can tackle air pollution without the need for a charging CAZ. The UK Government gave them until 2026 to to comply with legal limits on nitrogen dioxide before they enforce a CAZ
- Liverpool Clean Air Zone: Study still in development. Initial plans for a charging CAZ have been rejected by the city council. Authorities are looking at options on how to improve air quality without creating a CAZ in the city.
The UK is likely to see other cities introduce Clean Air Zone charges as well. Expect it to be the norm across the UK over the next 10 years.
Bath’s Clean Air Zone
Bath’s Clean Air Zone came into effect on 15 March 2021 and it aims to reduce pollution and improve air quality. It applies 24 hours a day, all year round.
It’s a class C CAZ, which means it doesn’t charge private cars and motorbikes, regardless of the emissions they produce. But commercial vehicles such as taxis and private hire vehicles will have to pay to enter the zone.
The Bath Clean Air Zone covers the city centre and areas including Kingsmead, Bathwick, Walcot and the Royal Victoria Park.
How much is Bath’s Clean Air Zone charge?
The charge varies depending on vehicle type:
- Coaches and buses – £100
- Trucks and lorries – £100
- Taxis – £9
- Minibuses – £9
- Vans, pickups and campervans – £9
- Private HGVs, like horse transporters and motorhomes – £100 (reduced to £9 if registered with the council)
The charge can be paid on the government website in a few easy steps.
Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone
Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone launched on 1 June 2021.
Birmingham has a Class D Clean Air Zone, so all vehicles can be affected.
Any diesel car that doesn’t meet the Euro 6 emission standards and any petrol car that doesn’t meet the Euro 4 emission standards will have to pay the CAZ charge in Birmingham.
It covers all the city centre roads within the A4540 Middleway, but not the Middleway.
How much is Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone charge?
It depends on vehicle type:
- Non-compliant cars, taxis (both hackney carriages and private hire), minibuses and LGVs up to 3.5 tonnes must pay an £8/day charge.
- Heavier vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes), buses and coaches must pay a £50/day charge.
The penalty for failing to pay the charge is £120 (reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days).
Bradford’s Clean Air Zone
Bradford’s Clean Air Zone came into force on 26 September 2022.
It’s a Class C CAZ, so private passenger cars and motorbikes are not affected.
That excludes taxis and private hire vehicles, which need to pay the charge to enter the area if they’re not compliant.
The zone covers the area inside, and including, the Bradford outer ring road. It also extends out along the Aire valley corridor, (Manningham Lane/Bradford Road and Canal Road area) to include Shipley and Saltaire.
How much is Bradford’s Clean Air Zone charge?
Non-compliant vehicles need to pay the following charges:
- Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles (including minibuses of 5-8 seats) – £7.
- Minibuses and LGVs – £9.
- Coaches, buses and HGVs – £50.
- Campervans and Motorhomes – £9 up to 3.5 tonnes and £50 for over 3.5 tones.
Bristol’s Clean Air Zone
The Bristol Clean Air Zone was introduced in November 2022 to ensure the city meets the legal limits within the shortest possible time.
Bristol has a Class D CAZ, so almost everyone in the region is affected. Unless your vehicle’s compliant, you’ll need to pay a charge when entering the area.
It applies 24/7, every day of the year, including bank holidays and covers roads in Bristol city centre, including the main routes into the city of Cumberland Basin and Portway.
How much is Bristol’s Clean Air Zone charge?
Non-compliant vehicles to enter the Bristol CAZ will need to pay a charge that differs based on vehicle type:
- Private cars, taxis, minibuses, pickups, campervans and LGVs (under 3.5 tonnes) must pay £9/day.
- HGVs, coaches and buses must pay £100/day.
Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside Clean Air Zone
Introduced at the end of January 2023, the Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside Clean Air Zone is one of the newest CAZs in the UK.
It’s a Class C Clean Air Zone, meaning non-compliant taxis, vans, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles will be affected. Private cars won’t be impacted.
The zone covers most of Newcastle city centre and routes over the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh Bridges.
How much is the Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside Clean Air Zone charge?
How much you’ll be charged depends on the type of vehicle you have.
- Non-compliant buses, coaches and HGVs will be charged £50.00 per day.
- Non-compliant taxis and minibuses will be charged £12.50 per day.
But, starting with July 2023, non-compliant vans and light goods vehicles will also be charged £12.50 per day.
Keep in mind the charge applies 24 hours a day, all year round. Failing to pay the daily charge will lead to receiving a PCN.
Portsmouth’s Clean Air Zone
Portsmouth’s authorities have undergone efforts to tackle air pollution and climate change.
The Portsmouth Clean Air Zone was launched on 29 November 2021 and it was introduced to make the city’s air cleaner.
It’s a Class B Clean Air Zone and it covers approximately three square kilometres, South-West of Portsmouth. You can check the Clean Air Zone boundary plans to see the exact area it covers.
How much is Portsmouth’s Clean Air Zone charge?
Non-compliant vehicles need to pay a daily charge based on their type, as follows:
- Taxis and private hire vehicles – £10 per day.
- HGVs, buses and coaches – £50 per day.
Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone
According to the city council, air pollution contributes to 250-500 deaths a year in the region. To combat this, the authorities decided to introduce the Sheffield Clean Air Zone.
Being a Class C Clean Air Zone means non-compliant taxis, LGVs, HGVs, buses and coaches will be charged when entering the zone.
How much is Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone charge?
The charge is for every day you enter the zone and applies to drivers of vehicles that don’t meet the minimum standard. It’s based on vehicle type, as follows:
- £10/day for polluting vans, LGVs and taxis.
- £50/day for polluting coaches, buses and HGVs.
- Larger motorhomes can pay a discounted rate of £10/day instead of £50. For that, drivers of large motorhomes need to register with the council and apply for each trip into the zone to get the discount. Also, the charge must be paid in advance or on the day of travel by midnight, otherwise the discount can’t be applied.
How to deal with Clean Air Zones
Controversial or not, Clean Air Zones are here to stay and more will follow. So, we put together a few suggestions on how you can deal with CAZs to make it easier for your business:
- Avoid city centres where possible. Use telematics for that. Vehicle tracking can help you plan your routes better, avoid a CAZ and re-route in real time.
- Go electric! Choose to hire EVs and not pay CAZ charges.
- Use the CVRAS. The Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) is for companies that use big vehicles that can’t be replaced with a low emission alternative.
- Try eCargo bikes if they fit your business. Check out a grant for an eCargo bike for more information.
Ultimately, let’s help you find the best solutions for your business. Whether it’s vehicle tracking, EV solutions, fuel cards or others.