Update on the UK’s Clean Air Zones – where does your city stand?
Air quality continues to be a big priority on both a national and regional level here in the UK, as the Royal College of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates that it’s a factor in around 40,000 premature deaths a year. To combat this, various local authorities are working on their own Clean Air Zone initiatives. Many of these are designed to encourage commercial drivers (and sometimes even private drivers too) to upgrade to more efficient vehicles. That’s been a major consideration for many of our customers recently looking for the best new van deals.
Since multiple UK cities will be adopting versions of their own Clean Air Zones, this means that wherever you or your team will be driving in the UK, you’ll probably be affected to some extent. The ongoing disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic has caused notable disruption to the rollout of these plans – so here’s what you need to know about where things stand.
Quick recap – what is a Clean Air Zone?
Part of the government’s wider Air Quality Plan, Clean Air Zones are essentially clearly-defined areas in which a local authority has introduced measures to improve air quality.
Right now, there are two types of Clean Air Zones – charging and non-charging. A non-charging CAZ relies on measures like retrofitting vehicles with devices to lower their emissions, and optimising traffic flow to further reduce emissions (such as by cutting down on the amount of time that drivers spend idling). A charging Clean Air Zone, on the other hand, focuses on actively encouraging drivers to upgrade their polluting vehicles to cleaner and more efficient ones, with additional charges that make them less economical to drive.
You probably already know about the biggest one – the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London. In this context that’s effectively its own scheme, and excluded from Clean Air Zone legislation. From October 2021, London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone will be expanded to apply to the North and South Circular roads.
What other cities are moving ahead with their Clean Air Zone plans?
Several UK cities have already made significant headway into their plans to introduce Clean Air Zones, some as soon as just a few months away.
Bath’s Clean Air Zone will officially become active on the 15th of March 2021, less than two months away. It’s classed as a Type C Clean Air Zone, and won’t charge private vehicles to go through it, but will apply charges to polluting buses, taxis and heavy goods entering or operating within its boundaries.
The Clean Air Zone for what’s often referred to as the UK’s ‘second city’ will begin on the 1st of June 2021, in the summer of this year. The council primarily plans to levy a charge of £8 a day for the most polluting cars (£50 for HGVs) to drive through roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road. However, these charges won’t apply for the Middleway itself. (Initiatives like these may be a factor in why some companies have recently begun favouring a switch from HGVs to LCVs.)
Authorities in Greater Manchester have set a tentative start date of Spring 2022 for a Category C Clean Air Zone. The starting date has been severely delayed by the onset of the pandemic, as it posed logistical challenges for consultations on the scheme, as well as a variety of related issues. However, it’s still been the subject of a lot of controversy, with some council bosses even having been accused of showing ‘a lax approach’ to people’s health. The scheme is set to exclude private vehicles, but the most polluting vehicles will be charged.
Bristol actually hasn’t set a start date for its Clean Air Zone yet, as its plans are still in the consultation stage. It’s considering two options for its air quality plans.
- Option 1 – This will cover a small area of central Bristol, and charge the most polluting commercial and private vehicles to drive there.
- Option 2 – Encompasses the terms of Option 1, while also implementing a larger charging zone to be applied to only the most polluting commercial vehicles.
What cities have paused their Clean Air Zone plans?
The list of cities due to implement their own versions of Clean Air Zones was originally a lot longer, and included Cardiff, Coventry, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Stoke. Some of these have now been dropped due to the expense involved. Others, meanwhile, have put their plans on indefinite hold because they’re successfully lowering emissions without the need for a Clean Air Zone.
This includes cities like Derby and Nottingham, which are both on track to bring their pollution levels down to within legal limits. Leeds has also suspended its implementation of a Clean Air Zone, because the air quality has significantly improved since its plans were first announced, and the central government thinks that further support would be unnecessary for as long as these pollution levels remain low.
Southampton is another city which suspended its Clean Air Plans a little over a year ago. The city council believes it can now meet EU limits through the use of a refined set of measures which apply to freight, bus and taxis.
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