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The Spread of Clean Air Zones in the UK

London’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) expanded to almost 20 times its original size in late October this year. Introduced in 2019, the Ulez initially focussed on the city centre but now covers all areas within the North and South Circular Roads. Two other cities in the UK also have clean air zones – Bath and Birmingham. Portsmouth will follow suit in late November, with Bradford and Manchester looking to introduce them in 2022.


London’s ultra-low emission zone

According to Transport for London, the body that runs London’s Ulez, the amount of dirty air in the original zone has fallen by half since its introduction in 2019. The £12.50 charge levied for each day a polluting vehicle enters the newly expanded zone is expected to affect around 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans, and 3,000 lorries. There is a scrappage scheme available for people driving cars that are liable to pay the charge. You can see if your vehicle is one of those liable for the charge by going to https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/


The campaign group Mums for Lungs claims that the expansion of London’s Ulez will clean up the air for nearly 4 million Londoners. The introduction of the Ulez has helped reduce the number of diesel vehicles on the roads by 15%.

Clean Air Zones outside of London

Clean Air Zones elsewhere in the UK

Bath has a class C clean air zone, which means that charges only apply to taxis, private hire vehicles, vans, light goods vehicles, buses, coaches, and heavy goods vehicles that do not meet the required emission standards. Bath launched its clean air zone in March 2021. Charges are applicable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bath councilor Sarah Warren views the clean zone as being a success so far, “Already 240 of the city’s most polluting vehicles have already been replaced with cleaner, compliant vehicles through the scheme…Hundreds of more businesses have recently been approved for finance after completing a 60-day assessment of their vehicles – so it won’t be long until more than 1,000 of the most polluting vehicles regularly driving on our roads are replaced with cleaner ones. This will make a real difference to the air we breathe.”


Birmingham launched its clean air zone in July 2021. This zone is also operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The area covered is within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road. Non-compliant buses, coaches, lorries, vans, taxis, and cars will be charged. To avoid a charge, people will need to drive diesel vehicles that are Euro 6 standard or better (roughly 2015 onwards) and petrol cars that are Euro 4 standard or better (roughly 2006 onwards).


You can see if your vehicle is liable for charges in Bath and Birmingham, as well as future clean air zones in Portsmouth, Manchester, and Bradford by going to https://www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones


The Future of Clean Air Zones in the UK

With Portsmouth, Bradford and Manchester soon to follow suit, clean air zones are set to be a feature of many UK cities. There are proposals to introduce clean air zones to over 15 further cities in the near future. As we move away from vehicles powered by fossil fuels, clean air zones are one of the tools being used to incentivise the change and free built-up areas from the dangerous pollution emanating from older vehicles.