Bath will become the first city outside London to launch a charging clean air zone (CAZ) after announcing its intention to press ahead with plans despite concerns over Covid-19.

It said the CAZ would launch on 15 March 2021 after initially aiming for a November 2020 start date; however, the council added that the date would be monitored to account for any developments regarding the pandemic.

The CAZ will operate in the city centre 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with charges applying to pre-Euro-6 diesel and pre-Euro-4 petrol vehicles, except private cars and motorbikes.

Higher emission HGVs will be charged £100 a day.

Birmingham city council also said it would launch a CAZ inside the inner ring road on 1 June next year and the most polluting vehicles would pay a daily charge to enter it.

The RHA said it was disappointed Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) council was pushing ahead with the CAZ and said that its zone would take in sections of the A4 and A36 – key freight routes – effectively turning them into toll booths for through-traffic.

Chris Ashley, RHA spokesman for the environment, said: “Better ways exist to achieve the clean air we all want. Hauliers have invested £1.9bn in clean lorries that have seen NOx pollution levels from HGVs fall by around 60% since 2013.

“Bath & North East Somerset Council must snap out of the negative and reactive mindset that penalises vehicles that do not conform to highly restrictive bureaucratic criteria and instead, look at measures other councils such as Leeds are taking to reduce pollution.”

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However, Logistics UK welcomed the clarity it said BANES and Birmingham city council had provided on their CAZ plans and that it enabled operators to plan ahead and adjust their fleet replacement strategies: “News that support packages will be available for operators to assist with the acquisition of Euro-6 standard vehicles is also positive encouragement for a sector which has been impacted by the downturn of the economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and is only now starting to return to pre-pandemic levels of trading,” added Chris Yarsley, Logistics UK policy manager.

Following the two councils’ announcements, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) said the sector was ready to provide businesses with the low-emission vehicles they would need to comply.

Gerry Keaney, BVRLA chief executive, said: “2021 is already set to be a challenging year, as the UK economy recovers from the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions and new ways of working.

“The introduction of Clean Air Zones will provide yet another test, but it is an essential one, and one that the vehicle rental and leasing sector is ready to help with.”

• CitySprint said today’s Clean Air Day was an opportunity to remind people that economic growth and the green agenda can co-exist.

Mark Footman, CitySprint operations director, said: “The logistics industry has long understood the importance of reducing the impact of its operation on the environment.

“However, the high price of green vehicles is slowing down progress.

“And, with the sales ban on carbon dioxide-emitting engines potentially being brought forward, it is crucial that these high costs are addressed.”