According to Public Health England, air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure.
The UK government has spent the past few years locked in a legal wrangle with environmental law firm ClientEarth, accused of not acting swiftly enough to tackle poor air quality.
As a result of ClientEarth’s success in the courtroom, the government has been forced to produce two new air quality strategies to tackle illegal breaches of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in urban areas.
This has seen a series of mandates rolled out to more than 60 local authorities in England to either submit clean air zone (CAZ) plans, or carry out feasibility studies to assess if one may be needed to tackle pollution hotspots.
Alongside this, both the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government have been working on their own emissions-reduction policies for affected cities.
The Scottish government has tasked its four major cities: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow to implement Low Emission Zones (LEZ) between February and May 2022, followed by other air pollution hotspots from 2023.
So what is a clean air zone?
According to the government’s definition, a CAZ is an area “where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources co-ordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth”.
Each CAZ will be expected to fulfil a number of minimum requirements before being approved, such as establishing a clearly defined air-quality issue; supporting uptake of ultra-low- emission vehicles (ULEVs); and local authority leadership through own fleet use of ULEVs and procurement standards to support the zone.
CAZs can take the form of a non-charging geographic area that includes a series of air quality improvement measures and incentives, or the more widely-known charging model, where vehicles must meet an emissions standard or pay a fee to enter.
They are categorised according to the vehicles brought into scope in each plan (see below).
All CAZs would require a minimum of Euro-4 petrol or Euro-6 diesel vehicles
- Class A: Bus, coach, taxi and private hire
- Class B: Bus, coach, HGV, taxi and private hire
- Class C: Bus, coach, HGV, large vans, minibus, small vans, taxi and private hire
- Class D: Bus, coach, HGV, large vans, minibus, small vans, cars, taxis, private hire, motorcycles and mopeds (optional Euro-3)
What is happening in each city?
Since the government issued its mandate to local authorities to improve air quality, they have been measuring pollution levels, identifying hotspots and taking steps to reduce emissions.
For many, legal levels have already been brought under control or they are on track to achieve targets within the required timeframe; for others, full-scale CAZ plans have been developed.
Motor Transport has compiled a list of those councils still exploring CAZ options, with handy links to relevant local authority pages.
Please bear in mind that many councils’ timelines are currently disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic, so make sure to click through to their sites for the latest updates.
Local authority plans to date
Aberdeen: Looking to roll out an LEZ, in line with four other main Scottish cities, between Feb and March 2022. Find out latest.
Bath and North East Somerset: Class C charging CAZ. HGVs £100 per day; vans £9 per day. Now live. Find out latest.
Birmingham: Class D charging CAZ. HGVs £50 per day; vans £8 per day. Now live. Find out latest.
Bradford: Class C CAZ. HGVS £50 per day; vans £9. Planned for launch 5 January 2022. Find out latest.
Bristol: Awaiting government approval on small Class D CAZ in city centre. HGVs £100 per day; vans £9. Earliest launch date expected is October 2021. Find out latest.
Dundee: Looking to roll out an LEZ, in line with four other main Scottish cities, between Feb and March 2022. Find out latest.
Edinburgh: Looking to roll out an LEZ, in line with four other main Scottish cities, between Feb and March 2022. Find out latest.
Glasgow: LEZ Phase One covering buses first (in place since 2018) and Phase Two, including HGVs and other vehicles, was originally planned for December 2022 but not pushed back due to Covid-19 delays. Find out latest.
Liverpool: CAZ plans still under discussion, but charging zone in draft proposals and public consultation expected summer 2021. Find out latest.
London: Class D Ultra Low Emission Zone in place for city centre. HGVs £100 per day, vans £12.50 per day. However, existing London Low Emission Zone tightened to meet ULEZ requirements for HGVs across whole of Greater London from October 2020, with enforcement started in March 2021. Find out latest.
Manchester (Greater): including Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, Manchester and Salford - Class C: HGVs £60 per day, vans £10.00 (temporary exemption until 31 May 2023). CAZ due to launch 30 May 2022. Find out latest.
Newcastle: Working in conjunction with Gateshead and North Tyneside City Council on a series of air quality measures, including an inner city Class C CAZ in city centre and wider traffic-reduction actions. Class C: HGVs £50 per day; vans per day £12.50. Original date postponed and new one not yet confirmed, but anticipated to start late 2021. Find out latest.
Oxford: Plans for a zero-emission zone pilot in city centre, between 7am and 7pm. Originally due December 2020, but now due to start in August 2021, with wider rollout from 2022. Find out latest.
Portsmouth: Class B CAZ. HGVs £50 per day. Expected to start November 2021. Find out latest.
Sheffield: Class C proposed. HGVs £50 per day; vans £10. Originally expected 2021, but council now re-examining whether a charging zone is needed due to reduced emissions during covid-19 pandemic. Find out latest.