HGVs and vans that do not meet emissions requirements will soon face a charge to enter certain areas in some of the UK’s major cities, as part of the government’s plans to improve air quality.

Clean Air Zones will be introduced in Birmingham (pictured), Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020.

It will see the most polluting vehicles, including HGVs that do not meet the Euro-6 emissions standard, diesel buses, taxis and coaches, discouraged from entering.

Cars are excluded from the scheme.

Zones in Birmingham and Leeds will also discourage the use of diesel vans and will implement other measures. These may include park and ride schemes, signage, changes in road layouts and provision of infrastructure for alternative fuels.

All ultra-low emission vehicles will be given free access to the zones as an incentive to invest in green technology.

Plans to exclude private cars from the scheme have been criticised by the FTA, particularly as the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London from 2020 will include cars.

Rachael Dillon, FTA’s climate change policy manager, said: “Everyone has to play their part to help improve air quality. But rather than sharing the burden of meeting air quality targets, the government has firmly rested the responsibility on other modes including freight which access cities to deliver the goods and services to keep our economy moving.

“FTA recognises the urgent need for the UK to meet EU air quality targets and to improve local air quality for residents.  We also recognise that the freight sector must contribute.  But to fail to include cars - a major source of pollutants - in such plans is baffling."