What you need to know right now about Manchester’s Clean Air Zone

Manchester is one of many UK cities have committed to implementing a Clean Air Zone – not just in response to the climate crisis at large, but also in a conscious effort to improve air quality for people who live and work in and around the city. Air quality is a huge issue in Manchester, an unwelcome legacy from its history as the heart of the Industrial Revolution, and it’s been a major item on the city leadership’s agenda for several years now.

With Greater Manchester serving as such a central hub of business and culture in the North West, there’s a good chance that if you’ve recently been looking for the best van deals, you’re likely to find yourself driving your van around or through the city at some point in the not too distant future. So here, we’ve outlined all the essentials you need to know about the Clean Air Zone, and exactly how it will affect you.

What is the Clean Air Zone, and how will it work?

At its heart, Manchester’s Clean Air Zone is an initiative aimed at improving the city’s air quality. It intends to do this by limiting the amount of harmful nitrogen dioxide, one of the most harmful elements present in vehicle emissions. At the moment, Manchester’s nitrogen dioxide levels are significantly above the legal limit, so the central government has directed the city’s leadership to introduce a Category C Manchester-wide Clean Air Zone.

This proposed Clean Air Zone would cover local roads across the whole of Greater Manchester, encompassing 10 local authority areas. That would make it the biggest one of its kind outside London. At the moment, public consultations are still ongoing.

Very similar to London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, the Clean Air Zone would operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s designed to discourage the most polluting vehicles by levying a daily charge on any that don’t meet the required emissions standard. Failure to pay this daily charge would incur a Penalty Charge Notice, in addition to the daily charge. As with the ULEZ, the Zone would be enforced by a network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras.

The Clean Air Zone is likely to be introduced in two phases. It’s been in development since 2018, when a Strategic Outline Case was first submitted to government. Transport for Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority are both jointly responsible for the scheme.

When will Manchester’s Clean Air Zone come into effect?

The original plan for Manchester’s Clean Air Zone was for it to be implemented in 2021. However the emergence of 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic means that the plans have been delayed by at least a year. At the moment, it’s scheduled to come into effect in Spring 2022, at which point most polluting vehicles affected will be required to start paying the daily charges.


Who will the Clean Air Zone affect?

The Clean Air Zone will affect almost all commercial vehicles and public service vehicles. Specifically, it will apply to older and more-polluting:

All of these vehicles will be charged to enter Manchester’s Clean Air Zone if they don’t meet the required nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions standards. Most non-compliant vehicles will be required to start paying the daily charge when the scheme launches. However, vans and minibuses get a bit more breathing room (so to speak), as they won’t have to start paying until 2023.

Private vehicles including cars, motorbikes and mopeds will all be exempt.

Non-compliant vehicles will typically include those with a Euro 5 diesel engine (or earlier), or a Euro 3 petrol engine (or earlier). Most affected vehicles will have been registered before 2016. At the moment, estimates show that almost 52,000 vans and similar vehicles will need to pay the daily penalty, which works out to almost half of all vans registered in Greater Manchester.

A few temporary and permanent discounts and exemptions have been proposed, and are currently under review.

If you’re not sure whether your van will be subject to the daily penalty, you can check with the Clean Air Greater Manchester online checker.

What are the proposed daily charges for the Clean Air Zone?

The proposed charges are outlined below, as they currently stand.

Type of vehicle

Proposed daily penalty for non-compliant vehicles driving into, out of, through or within Greater Manchester

Proposed Penalty Charge Notice (in addition to the daily penalty)

Taxis/private hire vehicles



Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs)






Light Goods Vehicles (LGV) including vans and minibuses

£10 from (2023 onwards)


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