What are Clean Air Zones and how will they affect you?

What are Clean Air ZonesA Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is defined as an area in which targeted action is being taken to improve air quality.

Designed for cities or specific areas within an urban location, Clean Air Zones aim to address all sources of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and reduce public exposure to them using a range of measures.

The government’s vision for Clean Air Zones is:

“Clean Air Zones improve the urban environment to support public health and the local economy, making cities more attractive places to live, work, do business and spend leisure time. They support cities to grow and transition to a low emission economy thus ensuring these benefits are sustainable for the long term.”

There are two categories of Clean Air Zones: non-charging and charging.

Non-charging Clean Air Zones

These are geographic areas, normally city centres, used as a focus for action to improve air quality. The are various measures open to the local authority, but charging a fee for entry into the CAZ isn’t one of them.

Charging Clean Air Zones

These are zones where motorists are required to pay a fee to enter or move within an area if they are driving a vehicle that does not meet a particular Euro emissions standard.

Classes of Clean Air Zones

Clean Air Zone classes

There are four classes of Clean Air Zone, and a local authority can decide what level of restrictions to apply.

  • Class A: buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles:
    • Buses and coaches: Euro 6
    • Taxis and private hire vehicles: Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol)
  • Class B: buses, coaches, taxis, priviate hire vehicles and HGVs:
    • Buses, coaches and HGVs: Euro 6
    • Taxis and private hire vehicles: Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol)
  • Class C: buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs and LGVs:
    • Buses, coaches and HGVs: Euro 6
    • Large vans, minibuses, LGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles: Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol)
  • Class D: buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, LGVs and cars:
    • Buses, coaches and HGVs: Euro 6
    • Large vans, minibuses, LGVs, cars, taxis and private hire vehicles: Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol)
    • Motorcycles and mopeds (optional): Euro 3

This is just an overview of the different classes. For a more in-depth description, read the government’s framework.

Where are the Clean Air Zones?

The five cities required to introduce a CAZ by 2020 are Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.

A further 23 local authorities must carry out a feasibility study to determine whether or not a CAZ is required.


Extinction Rebellion in Birmingham

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone was due to start in January 2020, but has been delayed until July at the earliest because of technological problems.

The government told Birmingham City Council that is must reduce levels of NO2 in the air to a maximum average of 40μg/m3 as soon as possible, before continuing to lower the amount of NO2 and particulate matter.

Non-compliant cars, taxis and LGVs will be subject to a daily charge of £8, rising to £50 per day for HGVs, coaches and buses.

Click here for more information on the Birmingham CAZ and how it affects you.


Derby City Council launched an eight-week publication consultation to select and refine its preferred option to address roadside NO2 air quality.

The council is proposing to introduce traffic management measures to manage the flow of traffic in and around Stafford Street, along with measures to encourage the early uptake of low emission vehicles.

Crucially, the proposal does not include a CAZ or any form of charging. Click here for more information


Leeds City Council will be introducing a CAZ, but ‘due to reasons beyond the council’s control,’ the launch has been delayed beyond 6 January 2020.

The proposed Clean Air Zone covers a wide area, but no vehicles will be banned from entering the zone. Instead, all non-compliant HGVs, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles will have to pay a daily fee. The costs range from £12.50 to £50.

Private motorists and LGVs will not be charged for driving into the CAZ.

Click here for more information on the Leeds CAZ and how it affects you.


No Clean Air Zone in Nottingham

A Clean Air Zone is no longer being considered in Nottingham.

Instead, Nottingham City Council is working on a series of measures designed to improve air quality, such as retrofitting buses with clean exhaust technology, requiring every taxi and private hire vehicle to be low-emissions, and replacing its own fleet with electric or other low emission vehicles.

Councillor Sally Longford, the portfolio holder for energy and environment, said: “Results of air quality modelling showed these measures will have a significant effect in reducing emissions, bringing Nottingham into compliance by 2020.

“Although we considered a Class B Clean Air Zone – which would have affected HGVs, buses and taxis – the actions we’re taking will have a positive impact across the whole city, rather than just in one area.


Southampton City Council introduced a non-charging Clean Air Zone in 2017. Earlier plans to introduce a charging CAZ were dropped in January 2019.

The council has introduced stricter new conditions for taxi operators in the city, with the first stage of changes coming into force on 1 January 2020. 

Councillor Steve Leggett, the cabinet member for green city and environment, said: “The need to take urgent, strong action against air pollution is essential. We know people living, working and visiting Southampton share our commitment to improving air quality and reducing pollution across the city.”

The council is also offering financial incentives to encourage taxi and private hire vehicles owners to upgrade to a low emission vehicle.

Other Clean Air Zones

Traffic in Bristol

In May, local authorities in the North East announced plans to introduce a Tyneside charging CAZ and a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Newcastle. The results of a public consultation will be announced later this year.

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) came into force in April 2019, with non-compliant vehicles charged £12.50 for entry into the city.

Bath is set to get a Clean Air Zone in 2021, with talks ongoing for a similar scheme in Bristol.

Sheffield City Council plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone in 2021, with polluting HGVs, buses, coaches, LGVs and taxis charged to enter the inner ring road and city centre.

A proposed CAZ in Manchester would cover all 10 local authority areas, with schemes also expected in Oxford, Cambridge, York and Bradford.

Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone came into force in December 2018, with Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen likely to follow suit.

Clean Air Zones to become the norm?

With the government under pressure to improve air quality, other towns and cities are expected to introduce Clean Air Zones or their own interpretations of the schemes. In the future, paying a fee to enter an urban area might become the norm rather than the exception.

Dirty air is linked to 40,000 early deaths every year in the UK, with 70 percent of people urging the government to take action.

A report by a conservative think tank calls for VAT to be abolished on electric cars and for citizens to be able to report idling vehicles. It also says that local authorities should be allowed to make “reasonable profits” from Clean Air Zones to fund electric charging points, scrappage schemes for polluting vehicles, and public transport.

We will be updating this overview with a city-by-city guide to Clean Air Zones in the UK. Bookmark this page for later use.

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