The coronavirus pandemic may have halted the government’s initial plans to have five Clean Air Zones to improve air quality in cities operational by 2020, however this year it is set to continue.

The pressure to improve the country’s air pollution comes after for the first time in the UK – and possibly the world – air pollution has been recognised as a cause of a person’s death. The Royal College of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates that 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK are linked to poor air quality. The matter is no longer just about the ecosystem but about the safety of the public.

It is hoped that each Clean Air Zone will contribute to the UK’s compliance with the EU’s clean air directive and will reduce levels of air pollution.

Local authorities are responsible for the implementation of Clean Air Zones, with each Council having been asked to create an Air Quality Improvement Plan and submit it to the Government in 2018. Despite the delay due to the pandemic, the initiative has now begun with Bath having launched theirs back in March.

Tim Alcock at LeaseCar UK, one of the UK’s leading car leasing firms, explains why it is so important that regions begin their roll charging infrastructure along with their Clean Air Zones.

“We have seen a major increase in customers driving electric cars in the back half of 2020 and start of 2021. British people are embracing the move to Electric and Plug in Hybrids before Clean Air Zones are introduced throughout the UK. We just hope that as the government facilitates sufficient charging infrastructure to support the increased demand in EV’s that clean air zones will create. ”

As part of the government’s broader Air Quality Plan, the Clean Air Zones (or CAZ) Initiative aims to improve air quality by addressing sources of population by working at a regional level.

There are two types of Clean Air Zone: non-charging and charging.

In a non-charging Clean Air Zone, the focus is on improving air quality, without charging money for vehicles entering the zone. Measures can include retrofitting certain vehicles, traffic flow management to reduce vehicle emission, rerouting some traffic or other local solutions.

In a charging zone, drivers will be charged a fee to enter the area if their vehicle fails to meet the required environmental standards – this will most likely be based on a car’s Euro emissions standard.

The first city to implement this will be Birmingham which will be introducing their class D CAZ on June 1st. This area will cover the city inside the inner ring road (A4540 Middleway) and once live will mean that all non-compliant vehicles, which account for around 25% of the vehicles on Birmingham’s roads, will need to pay a daily charge to drive into or through the CAZ.

Cars, taxis and vans will pay £8 per day to drive into the CAZ in Birmingham, while HGVs, coaches and buses will be charged £50 per day.

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

There will be some exemptions to these classes including buses, coaches and HGVs that meet Euro VI emissions standards and cars, vans and taxis that meet Euro 6 (diesel) or Euro 4 (petrol as well as ultra-low emission vehicles.

Bristol is another city that aims to introduce a Class D CAZ in its city centre this year. The proposed CAZ will see all non-compliant vehicles after October 21st 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.

However, Bristol City Council have said it will allow drivers older vehicles to apply for a one-year exemption from the charge.

Sheffield and Bradford are also expected to launch their CAZ Class C initiative in October 2021. The implementation in Bradford is dependent on a £60m Government grant, however it will cover the majority of Bradford and Shipley. Non-compliant vehicles will face daily charges of up to £50.

Proposed charges are £50 a day for buses, coaches and HGVs, £10 a day for taxis and private hire vehicles and £10 a day for vans and light commercial vehicles above 3.5 tonnes.

Sheffield Council is seeking £40 million in Government funding to support affected businesses and taxis to help upgrade their vehicles. The proposed charges will range from £50 to £10 and will affect coaches, buses, vans and taxis.

Residents of Portsmouth can expect their Class Caz B to launch in November with the council having also been awarded a contract for the rollout of cameras to support its CAZ.

Tim Alcock from LeaseCar UK said “Whether you agree with Clean air Zone plans or not they are now being rolled out across the county. Though initially they may seem confusing, or even in some cases annoying, it is worth considering how the scheme will affect your daily commute and your wallet. Electric vehicles are our future, and this initiative while frustrating will make the public more aware of their impact on the environment and encourage them to upgrade to more electric or hybrid vehicles.”

Sam Allcock