Know your clean air zones

In recent years there has been a local authority green revolution resulting in a number of clean air zones (CAZ) being introduced in several UK cities. Why is this important? Well the new schemes are helping to improve air quality in the affected areas but not great if you happen to be caught by the emissions charges they have introduced. We look at some of the cities already operating CAZ schemes, how the schemes differ and those coming online in 2022.

CAZ overview

CAZ is part of the Government’s Clean Air Strategy published in 2019 which aims to reduce air pollution, improve health and protect the environment. Local authorities in England are incentivised to apply for central government funding to implement a CAZ in a city or large town. There are currently four types of CAZ, categories A-D, which implement emissions standards for certain categories of vehicle. A category A CAZ applies the standards to the fewest types of vehicle and a category D CAZ applies to nearly all vehicle types. There are several exemptions in place such as with ultra low emission vehicles, disabled registered vehicles and for classic cars. But if your vehicle does not meet the necessary emissions standards in one of the zones then you will have to pay to drive into these urban areas. Essentially the schemes operate in a similar way to the low emission and ultra low emission zones introduced in London by TfL, which have followed the congestion charge.

Current and future CAZ schemes

Bath, Birmingham and Portsmouth are currently running CAZ schemes between categories B and D. So if you are thinking of going to visit any of these cities or need to start commuting in and out of them you need to check if your vehicle meets the necessary emissions standards to avoid charges. Schemes in Bradford, Bristol and Greater Manchester will be starting later in 2022 and more cities and large towns are likely to set up schemes over the next few years. Given all of the zones are operated by local authorities the rules and charges they implement are all different. This lack of consistency has arguably been the biggest criticism behind the way CAZ has been rolled out.

Check for CAZ schemes and charges

Thankfully there is a checking facility here on the GOV.UK website which allows you to plug in your vehicle’s registration mark to understand if you will be charged in any of the current and soon to be introduced zones. There is also a service available that allows multiple vehicle operators to set up an account and check and pay CAZ charges which can be accessed through the same link provided above. For more detailed information regarding CAZ please click here.

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