Clean Air Zones: what are they and where will they be?

In a bid to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution, Oxford, Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton and Derby will be the first cities to introduce Clean Air Zones within the next two years.

Lee Dover of car dealership Grange, discusses what this will mean for UK motorists.

Oxford revealed its plans to become the first zero emissions city zone across the globe back in October 2017, with 2020 being set as the year the city aims to ban all diesel and petrol cars from its city centre. If this example is anything to go by, the UK certainly appears to be taking its ambitions to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 seriously.

What is a Clean Air Zone?

According to the government, a Clean Air Zone is ‘an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth.’

Encouraging the introduction of more cleaner vehicles on the nation’s roads, the programme will see access restrictions put into force at ‘clean zones’. High polluting vehicles such as busses, HGV’s and taxis will be faced with a charge for entering these zones – however, private cars will not be affected by these charges yet. Fully electric vehicles and vehicles which meet the definition of an ultra-low emission vehicles will be exempt from paying entering charges. However, other vehicles are separated into different classes, and charges will depend on which class they fall into.

Where will Clean Air Zones be located?

Areas throughout the UK with the poorest air quality have been selected by the government for the initiative. Clean Air Zones expect to be introduced in Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby by 2020, in an attempt to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide back down to the legal limit. The zones will most likely be introduced in the city centres, and restrictions can involve entry charges, time-of-day restrictions and/or blanket vehicle bans.

Other cities, like Manchester, are also looking into just how feasible a Clean Air Zone will be for their roads. The Sunday Times suggests that over 35 urban areas could be included in this plan, whereby both private and public vehicles could be banned on the roads during peak traffic hours in city centres.

Throughout the most polluted cities, drivers can expect ‘toxin taxes’, as they have hailed, to be as high as £20 a day. However, the government is keen to point out that they don’t want to punish drivers who bought their diesel cars because of successive governments – they don’t want drivers to feel they are being hit hard for incentives that previous governments had encouraged.

Understanding a Clean Air Zone’s charges

Fixed charges won’t apply to all Clean Air Zones at first. These will be decided by local councils and authorities. Penalties are not compulsory for city Clean Air Zones either. However, councils which do implement charges have the right to charge additional penalty fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges.

Private car owners won’t initially be penalised within the zones either. Instead, the zones will charge drivers of buses, taxis and HGV’s which contribute the most air pollution. Charges have not been finalised yet, but they will be issued depending on which class, or category, your vehicles falls under. There are four classes, A, B, C and D and are identified on vehicle type depending on your emissions and euro standard.

Hoping to find out what Clean Air Zones will mean for you and your vehicle? The government has released a report outlining the Clean Air Zone framework.



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