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Clean Air Zones: How they will affect you and your staff

The UK government is focused on reducing carbon emissions. After they added the London congestion charge, clean air zones (CAZs) are now planned for other UK cities. What does this mean for you or your team? We'll explore the costs, exemptions, and implications of CAZs.

What are clean air zones?

A clean air zone is an area where the oldest, most polluting vehicles must pay a charge when entering. Daily charges are paid online on the government website.

If you’re paying for a single vehicle, then you will need the number plate and a debit or credit card to pay.

If you’re a business and you want to check the payment requirements for several vehicles, you will need:

  • An online account
  • Your company name and e-mail address
  • A CSV format spreadsheet containing the number plates of the vehicles you want to check
  • A credit card, debit card, or your bank details

Once you have registered your business, you can use the vehicle check and payment system as required. You can also:

  • Add up to 10 members of staff to manage your account
  • Add, remove, and view information about all your vehicles
  • View clean air zone maps
  • Find out information about vehicle exemptions and different vehicle charges

Clean air zones are being implemented in cities across the UK, so now is the time to prepare your business.

Why do we need clean air zones?

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution kills around seven million people every year. Pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter have a hugely negative effect on air quality.

In the UK, the main cause of air pollution is traffic.

Clean air zones are being introduced in cities with high levels of pollution. Removing highly polluting vehicles from city streets will have a direct impact on air pollution levels.

CAZs are being implemented alongside the UK government’s drive to reach net zero for carbon emissions by 2050 and to encourage the transition to electric vehicles.

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Which UK cities are planning clean air zones?

In the UK, only three cities, Birmingham, Bath, and Portsmouth currently have clean air zones. London has its own Low Emission and Ultra Low Emission zones which function in a similar way to clean air zones.

In 2022, these other English cities are planning to introduce clean air zones:

  • Bristol
  • Bradford
  • Leicester
  • Manchester
  • Newcastle
  • Sheffield
  • Oxford

In Scotland and Wales, clean air zones are planned for several cities. In Glasgow, a low emission zone has already been implemented for buses.

Other Scottish cities with plans to introduce CAZs are Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee. In Wales, a CAZ is planned for Cardiff.

Which vehicles are affected by CAZs?

Vehicles are charged to enter CAZs depending on their minimum emission standard. This information can be found in the vehicle logbook or from the vehicle manufacturer.

These clean air zone minimum standards apply for the following vehicles:

  • Euro V1 standard – Buses, coaches, HGVs
  • Euro 6 diesel & Euro 4 petrol – Vans, minibuses, taxis, private hire vehicles, cars
  • Euro 3 standard – Motorcycles

Clean air zones are also categorised into four types, classes A – D. Each class will place restrictions on different vehicles:

  • Class A – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles
  • Class B – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs
  • Class C – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans, minibuses
  • Class D – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans, minibuses, cars, and potentially motorcycles depending on the local authority

What are the benefits of clean air zones?

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Clean air zones are a necessary method of reducing pollution. Although some initial disruption may be caused, the long-term positives will far outweigh the disruption.

Alongside the obvious health benefits of cleaner air, CAZs will help to:

  • Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles
  • Encourage public transport use, cycling, and walking
  • Reduce congestion levels

For businesses and tradespeople who regularly work in or travel through CAZs, the financial impact is a major concern. There are government grants available to help businesses transition to electric vehicles.

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How much does it cost to enter a clean air zone?

Charges for entering CAZs will vary from city to city. To enter the London congestion zone, a £15 daily charge applies. In Bath, Birmingham, and Portsmouth, the charges are:

CityVehicle Type Fee (per day)
BathHigh emission commercial vans, cars, and taxis£9
BathHGVs, coaches, & buses£100
BirminghamHigh emission commercial vans, cars, and taxis£8
BirminghamHGVs, coaches, & buses£50
PortsmouthPrivate cars, vans, and motorcyclesNO CHARGE
PortsmouthHigh emission taxis and private hire vehicles£10
PortsmouthHGVs, coaches, & buses£50

Clean air zones FAQs

Here are some FAQs about clean air zones and how they may affect you and your business.

How many clean air zones are there?

There are currently three CAZs in Bath, Birmingham, and Portsmouth. London has its own Low Emissions zone and many other UK cities will implement CAZs in 2022 and beyond.

Which cars will be charged in clean air zones?

Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans, minibuses, cars, and motorcycles.

What are clean air zone rules?

If your vehicle does not meet minimum emission standards, you will need to pay to enter a CAZ.

Do I have to pay if I live in a clean air zone?

Yes, if your vehicle doesn’t meet the required emission standards. Depending on the local authority, you may be able to apply for a resident’s temporary exemption permit.

What vehicles are exempt from CAZs?

Ultra-low emission vehicles, disabled tax class and disabled passenger tax class vehicles, military vehicles, historic vehicles, some agricultural vehicles, vehicles retro-fitted with Clean Vehicle Retro-fir Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) technology.

Should I consider getting an electric van?

It’s definitely worth considering. Not only will it save you money when you or your team has to travel in CAZs, it’s better for the environment.

Another bonus is that using electric vans makes your business stand out to customers, and could make them choose to work with you over someone else. Did you know: 46% of customers say the environmental impact of any work they conduct is one of the key things they consider before going ahead.* 

Check out what the best electric vans are – and see how being a Checkatrade member means you could save on your electric van.

Those Checkatrade members who used their Mercedes van discount saved £7,610 last year!

Save on the switch to electric vans

Checkatrade members get exclusive deals at Mercedes

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*Homeowners under the age of 45 – Deep Blue Thinking Consumer Survey (October 2021)

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