Welsh Government sets out clean air zone proposals within £20m air quality fund

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on introducing clean air zones (CAZs) in areas with poor air quality, which could see the most polluting lorries and vans prevented from entering, or charged for access.

Local authorities are not currently mandated to introduce a CAZ, however both Caerphilly County Borough Council and Cardiff Council have been directed to explore such schemes as part of their plans to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible.

The consultation does, however, ask whether the Welsh Government should indeed be directing other local authorities to implement CAZs.

In the CAZ framework issued alongside the consultation, the minimum emissions standard for diesel vehicles would be Euro-6.

Those categories of vehicles affected would depend on which level of CAZ is applied, which is down to the discretion of each local authority, as is the level of any charge imposed.

The framework report suggests that local authorities should look to incentivise the use of alternative fuels in the HGV and van sector.

It states: “Alternatives are becoming more available, including gas-powered options and EVs, and these can offer some advantages to hauliers particularly where it can provide them with an edge when tendering for contracts.

“Local authorities may encourage the use of non-diesel powered vehicles by including specific requirements in tender specifications, supporting grid infrastructure, EV charging points, Autogas (automotive liquid petroleum gas/LPG) and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.”

It also suggests allowing additional perks for businesses using ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVS) to help drive fleet uptake, such as preferential delivery bays, restricted road lanes and accreditation schemes.

In addition, the Welsh Government said locating consolidation centres outside a CAZ can be a “means of re-directing more polluting lorries and vans away from roads within”. Goods can then be carried into the CAZ on compliant vehicles.

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Certain vehicles will be exempt from CAZ restrictions.

These include construction vehicles/machinery where already in use prior to the commencement of the CAZ, vehicles retro-fitted with an emissions control device approved by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme,  ULEVs, LPG vehicles, refuse trucks and specialist vehicles that cannot be made compliant.

The CAZ consultation forms part of a wider £20m Air Quality Fund to support Welsh local authorities in complying with nitrogen dioxide limits.

Other plans include temporary speed limits to come into force in the next two months at pollution hotspots,  as well as a new air quality website to help support individuals and businesses.

Minister for environment Hannah Blythyn said:  “We will encourage local authorities to introduce clean air zones, where evidence suggests they are needed to reduce harmful emissions, as well as launching a new website which allows people to check the air quality in their area.

“Delivering clean air in Wales is one of my key priorities. I am committed to taking action to reduce air pollution in Wales to support a healthier future for our communities and protect our natural environment.”

The consultation runs until 19 June, with a final clean air zone framework for Wales expected to be published on 31 July.