Navigating the Clean Air Zones

Introduction

In this blog, we will be giving you all the information about the Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in the UK. We understand that this information is hard to navigate, so we are here to give you the latest information to hopefully make driving in the big cities a little easier.

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an area within a city where a local authority has implemented measures to improve the air quality. The creation of CAZs is a part of the UK Government’s Air Quality Plan, aiming to improve air quality and address the main sources of pollution.

These zones can be referred to as different things, depending on the area. For example, in London, it is called either a Low Emission Zone or an Ultra-Low Emission Zone and, in some cities in the UK, they are referred to as Clean Air Zones. Moreover, it is important to remember that there are different requirements in these different areas therefore it can be difficult to get a secure understanding of the regulations.

To begin with, it is important to understand there there are two types of CAZs in the UK. The first being non-charging and the second, charging. In this blog we are going to be explaining these, and giving you an understanding on how these CAZs effect you.

Non-Charging CAZs

The non-charging CAZs in the UK focus on improving the air quality in the area without charging the drivers any money for entering the zone by implementing certain processes. These processes include retrofitting certain vehicles with pollution controls and traffic-flow management (reducing vehicle emissions, rerouting traffic, or other local solutions).

Charging CAZs

In charging CAZs, you must pay a fee to enter if your vehicle fails to meet the required environmental standards.

There are four classes of CAZs (ABCD), these classes outline vehicles which are exempt from paying the charge. The specific class of each CAZ is determined by the local authority that implements it, but they are regulated by national Clean Air Zone framework, which was outlined by the UK Government in February 2020.

ClassVehicle Type
ABuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles
BBuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and heavy goods vehicles (HGV)
CBuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicle (HGV), vans and minibuses
DBuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles (HGV), vans, minibuses, cars. Local authority has the options to include motorcycles

Active Clean Air Zones in England

The following areas in the UK are where CAZs are currently active, also showing you the class and the area it covers:

CityArea (m2)Class
Bath1.2C
Birmingham2.96D
Bradford9.35C
Bristol1.18D
Portsmouth1.16B
Sheffield0.9C
Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead)0.94C

Bath

The CAZ in Bath was introduced on 15/03/2021 and is currently categorised as Class C.

This Clean Air Zone does not charge for private cars and motorbikes however buses, coaches, minibuses, light goods vehicles (vans, pickup trucks, and some camper vans) and heavy good vehicles are charged.

Birmingham

The CAZ for Birmingham was introduced on 26/09/2021 and is currently Class D. Therefore, all non-compliant vehicles (Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles (HGV), vans, minibuses, cars) are charged a fee from £8-£50 to drive in the area.

However, electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles and motorbikes do not incur a charge.

Bradford

Introduced on 26/09/2022, the CAZ in Bradford is Class C and this means that all non-compliant vans are be charged £9, non-compliant taxis are be charged £7 and non-compliant lorries, buses and coaches are charged £50 for driving in this area. However, there is currently no charge for private cars.

Bristol

This Class D CAZ was introduced on 28/11/22, and there is a charge for all high emission vehicles to drive through the city centre, including private vehicles.

Portsmouth

The CAZ in Portsmouth is currently categorised as Class B and was introduced in November of 2021. Located in the southwest of the city, non-compliant vehicles are charged between £10-£50 per day.

Non-compliant vehicles are heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles that don’t meet Euro 6 emissions standards if they are diesel or do not meet Euro 4 emissions standards if they are petrol.

The more polluting HGVs, buses and coaches pay £50 per day and non-compliant taxis and private hire vehicles pay £10 per day. On the other hand, private cars, motorcycles and vans are not charged.

Sheffield

This Class C CAZ was introduced in February 2023 and does not charge private cars for entering into the city centre however, other vehicles may be charged. Sheffield council have stated that buses, HGVs, and taxis are responsible for half the air pollution but only make up 20% of the traffic, therefore by focusing on them, the city can reduce air pollution significantly.

Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead)

Covering most of Newcastle’s city centre, this Class C CAZ was introduced in July 2022 and started charging on 20/01/2023.

It charges taxis, vans, buses, coaches, and HGVs that do not meet national emissions requirements. For taxis and vans, this means Euro 6 diesel vehicles which have been registered after Sep 2015, and Euro 4 petrol vehicles, registered after 2005. For buses, coaches, and HGVs this means Euro 6 vehicles which are registered after 2014.

This CAZ charges non-compliant vehicles £12.50 a day for vans and taxis, and £50 per day for buses, coaches, and HGVs. However, it is important to remember that it does not affect nor charge private cars.

Click here to view the map which highlights the perimeter of the CAZ in Tyneside:

Manchester

Manchester’s CAZ was meant to be introduced in 2022 however, these plans have been delayed a number of times due to a range of different factors. The Clean Air Zones in Greater Manchester are currently under review.

The Original Plan

Manchester’s original plan for a CAZ was Class C, it was originally meant to be introduced on 30/03/2022 however it is still not in force. It was meant to cover all 20 boroughs of Greater Manchester (GM) – Bolton, Bury, Manchester City Centre, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan.

This CAZ was intended to include local roads, but not include motorways and major trunk roads managed by National Highways. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Road signs were to be installed to shows drivers when they were entering a zone and enable drivers to also find alternative routed.

The following were the original charges for vehicles entering the areas and the intended start date:

Vehicle typeCost (£)Start date
HGVs6030/03/22
Buses6030/03/22
Coaches6030/03/22
Vans/light goods vehicles1001/06/23
Minibuses1001/06/23
Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles7.5030/03/22
Motorhomes/campervansDaily charge & date of introduction dependent on tax class of vehicleN/A

Vehicles which did not meet the emissions standards would have had to pay to enter the areas however private cars, motorbikes and mopeds would not be affected.

The updated plan for Manchester’s CAZ

The plans to introduce CAZs in Manchester have been delayed on more than one occasion due to the UK Government advising the Greater Manchester Council that bus retrofit data may not be reliable and, until this issue has been resolved, a final plan cannot be agreed between the GM council and the UK Government.

Furthermore, following the COVID-19 pandemic there has been significant vehicle supply chain issues meaning that there has been a dramatic increase in vehicle costs and the cost of living. Therefore, Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) has said that the original CAZ plan was no longer the right solution and could have caused significant financial hardship for the residents of Manchester.

As a result of this, the UK Government has directed Greater Manchester to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide on local roads in the quickest time possible and by 2026 at the latest.

Additionally, TFGM said that they aim to clean up the air through an investment-led Clean Air Plan that does not include a charging CAZ. This investment-led plan will target funding towards the most polluting vehicles travelling in locations with nitrogen dioxide levels above the legal limit. They hope that this will reduce emissions and bring health benefits as quickly as possible whilst also delivering the transformational Bee Network and investment in zero-emission bus fleets that wasn’t available to Greater Manchester when it was agreed in the previous Clean Air Plan in summer 2021.

For more information about CAZs in Greater Manchester, click here.

London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ)

London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zones were first introduced in April 2019 and expanded to cover all London boroughs on 29/08/2023. These zones operate 24/7, every day of the year apart from Christmas Day.

Drivers of all cars, motorbikes, and vans (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) that do not meet the minimum emissions standards must pay £12.50 per day. Furthermore, diesel cars that meet the ULEZ standard are generally those registered with the DVLA after September 2015, while compliant petrol cars tend to be vehicles first used after 2006. Owners of vehicles that do not meet the emissions standards have to pay the daily charge.

Additionally, HGVs, lorries, heavy vans, buses/minibuses, coaches, or other specialist heavy vehicles need to meet the emission standards or pay the daily charge.

For more information about driving in the ULEZs in London, please visit: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/

CAZ Exemptions

There are some national and local exemptions for vehicles driving in this Clean Air Zones. The following vehicles are automatically entitled to national exemption and do not have to pay a charge:

  • Ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Disabled passenger tax class vehicles
  • Military vehicles
  • Historic vehicles
  • Vehicles retrofitted with technology accredited by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS)
  • Certain types of military vehicles

Paying CAZ Charges

You can pay the charge for driving in a CAZ on the UK Government’s website and are also able to check if a vehicle is compliant or non-compliant.

Furthermore, businesses that own two or more UK registered vehicles can set up an account to check and pay charges for multiple vehicles.

Visit this website if you are planning to drive through clean air zones in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Greater Manchester (under review), Portsmouth, Sheffield, or Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead): https://www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones

Or

Visit this website if you want to drive in London’s low or ultra-low emission zones: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

Or

Visit this website to check of you can drive your vehicle in the Low Emission Zones in Scotland: https://www.lowemissionzones.scot/vehicle-registration-checker