Clean air zone charges: where are Britain's low emission zones?

Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle & Manchester latest to announce clean air zone charges: see a map of low emission zones & how much you'll pay

Dominic Tobin
Mar 12, 2019

Most diesel drivers will have to pay £12.50 to drive into the centre of London from this April, and similar charges will creep across the country as other regions line up to launch clean air zones in city centres.

Birmingham, Derby and Newcastle are planning their own schemes - also known as low emission zones - to target older, more polluting cars in an effort to cut toxic air pollution. Cameras will monitor traffic to ensure that fees are paid, with the threat of £120 fines if drivers fail to do so.

Diesel owners will be worst-affected, as most diesel cars sold before September 2015 don't meet the latest emissions standard, known as Euro 6, making them subject to the charges. These account for around 9.5 million of the 12.9 million diesel cars on British roads.

The majority of diesel vans sold before September 2016 will need to pay too. Petrol built since 2006 will be unaffected, as these are cleaner than older diesels, along with all electric cars and most hybrids.

Since 2015, more than 60 local authorities have been ordered to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, which is why many of these planning to introduce clean air zones.

A new report from Public Health England, an arm of the Department of Health, has recommended that every council considers setting up such a zone to improve air quality.

London's ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) will come into force from April 8, imposing daily tolls of £12.50 per day for affected cars and vans, and £100 for lorries.

Birmingham will set up a similar scheme at the end of the year, charging £12.50 per day. Eventually, almost 20 councils could set up clean air zones, including some Scottish cities that plan to ban older vehicles from driving in city centres altogether. Other areas, including Leeds and Sheffield are likely to set up zones that charge lorries, buses and taxis - but not private cars or vans.

Our map, below, shows where the zones are likely to appear.

You can see full details of the vehicles affected by clean air zone charges at the bottom of the page. Scroll down for more details of what's proposed in each clean air zone.

 

Clean air zones map

Full details of low emission zone proposals - click below

 

What are clean air zones and low emission zones?

Clean air zones are set up in areas where air pollution exceeds European legal limits, and councils are taking action to cut emissions. This ranges from improving traffic flow to charging the most polluting vehicles (mostly older diesels) a daily rate. Charging schemes are also known as low emission zones.

Government rules require income from the zones to be used for their operating costs or for other air quality measures. Clean air zones are starting to be set up across the country and won't be affected by Brexit because the legislation is duplicated in British law. 

Although not all clean air zones involve vehicle charges, increasing numbers of councils plan to impose fees for the most polluting vehicles that drive through the zone. Many, shown on the map below, plan to do so, using automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR) to track vehicles and check their emission rating.

A report into air pollution by Public Health England has said that clean air zones would be most effective if operated across the country. Entitled 'Review of interventions to improve outdoor air quality and public health', it stated: "If some such local measures are applied at scale, they have much greater potential to lead to reductions in population-level exposure to air pollutants."

The report did concede that the public would be unlikely to accept large numbers of clean air zones, but more restrictive policies are planned. Further into the future, zero emission zones will bring in much stricter limits: some mayors want petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030 in their cities. 

 

Cars exempt from clean air zone and low emission zone charges

All clean air zones are expected to comply with a government guidelines which make the most modern and cleanest vehicles exempt from CAZ charges. These vehicles comply with recent emission standards known as Euro 4, 5 and 6. These include:

  • Petrol cars meeting the Euro 4 standard or later (including virtually every car sold since January 2006) and
  • Diesel cars that meet the tougher Euro 6 standard (including virtually every car sold since September 2015).
  • Electric cars

A Euro 6 standard also applies for diesel vans. This only became mandatory for new vans in September 2016, so the majority of compliant vehicles are relatively new. Lorries and coaches registered since 2014 will also be exempt, as will motorbikes sold over the past ten years. See full details in the table below

Clean air zones and low emission zones: current and future

Clean air zones: cars in underpass

Aberdeen low emission zone

Low emission zone planned by 2020
Vehicles affected Buses and lorries failing to meet minimum emission standards

Aberdeen is one of four Scottish cities where low emission zones are planned by 2020. Unlike Glasgow's wide-ranging scheme that will ban older cars and taxis from city centre roads, Aberdeen is only looking at restricting buses and lorries.

As with other Scottish schemes, you're not expected to have the option of a daily charge if you have a vehicle that doesn't meet the required standard. Drivers of banned buses and lorries are likely to be issued with a penalty fee for driving in the zone, which a government consultation has suggested would be higher than a standard clean air zone charge.

 

Bath & North East Somerset clean air zone

Clean air zone planned by 2021
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards, apart from private cars Low emission charge £9 for non-compliant vans and taxis; £100 for lorries and buses

Owners of older cars in Bath could benefit from a local scrappage scheme, giving them £2,000 to upgrade to a cleaner car as part of the city's clean air zone plans.

But Bath & North East Somerset Council looks set to drop plans to charge those owners £9 per day to drive into Bath. Privately-owned cars are expected to be made exempt from the city's clean air zone after a deluge of responses from residents to its initial plans.

It looks likely that lorries, buses and coaches that fail to meet the minimum emissions standards will be charged £100 per day and non-compliant vans and taxis £9 if the proposed zone goes ahead as planned by 2021.

The boundary roughly follows the A36, to the south and east of the river Avon, and it runs along a jagged line from Cleveland Place to Sion Hill. The area incorporates the Botanical Gardens to the west of the city, and may be extended to the Pulteney Estate in the East.

The council is requesting a government fund so that residents and workers with old cars, which don't even meet Euro 4 emissions standards - which have been mandatory for new cars since 2006 - can upgrade, contributing to an improvement in air quality.

Councillors will debate the measures early in March.

 

Birmingham clean air zone

Clean air zone planned for the end of 2019
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards
Low emission charge £6 to £12.50 for non-compliant cars; £50 to £100 for lorries and buses

Birmingham is second only to London in its peak air pollution figures, with air pollution from nitrogen oxides (NOx) expected to average 53 microgrammes (µg) per cubic metre in 2018, well above the legal limit of 40µg/m3.

City councillors have approved proposals for a large clean air zone within (but not on) the A4540 middle ring road. If approved by the government (which is seen as likely) the charging zone will include the A38 Queensway through the centre of the city, which is the cause of much of the poor air quality.

All vehicles that don't meet the minimum emission standards (including most diesel cars sold before September 2015) would incur a charge. The council is considering a fee of between £6 and £12.50 per day for cars and its documents suggest that the charge will be at the higher end of this. Charges for lorries and buses will be between £50 and £100.

However, officials plan to make anyone living inside the zone exempt from the charges for at least a year. Key workers and low-income employees with jobs within the zone, as well as hospital patients and visitors, would not have to pay in the first year either.

At the same time, Birmingham is using £2.92m of government grant money to increase electric vehicle charging points, and is ordering hydrogen-powered buses. There's an chance of a local scrappage scheme to help zone residents with of older cars to upgrade to cleaner models. This is likely to be dependant on the government approving a request for £36m for various projects to improve air quality.

 

Bristol clean air zone

Clean air zone under consideration
Vehicles affected unknown

Bristol City Council is currently considering everything and nothing: from a clean air zone that brings in some measures to reduce emissions without charging, to the full London option, where all older vehicles will have to pay to drive in a sizeable area of Bristol. Five different proposals are currently being considered before councillors make their decision this year.

 

Cambridge clean air zone

Clean air zone being examined for 2020
Vehicles affected unknown

Cambridge has recently published its Air Quality Action Plan, which includes mention of a feasibility study into a Clean Air Zone. If it goes ahead, the Zone will cover central Cambridge and come into place during 2020, according to the document.

The study will consider the effect of including private cars in the charging scheme, as well as buses, taxis and lorries. One possibility involves "potentially permitting access to low emission vehicles only", alongside reducing the amount of parking available in the city, the plan states.

 

Cardiff clean air zone

Clean air zone feasibility study underway
Vehicles affected unknown

Cardiff has the worst pollution in Wales, and NOx levels exceed legal limits in some areas of the city, It has been told to investigate the possibility of a clean air zone by the Welsh government and is due to report back in 2019 with a proposal to improve air quality. It's too early to tell whether vehicle charging will form part of this.

 

Derby clean air zone

Clean air zone a possibility
Vehicles affected Either none, or all lorries, buses, vans and cars failing to meet minimum emission standards

Derby is one of five councils outside London that have been told to set up clean air zones to deal with air pollution that's far in excess of legal limits (more than 10µg/m3 over the 40µg/m3 standard in Derby's case).

It has published a consultation with three options, two of which include charging cars that don't meet minimum emission standards.

However, the council says that its preferred option involves restricting traffic on Stafford Street, part of the city's inner ring road where air pollution is particularly bad. The council would also set up a scrappage scheme, which would offer drivers of older cars one of three incentives to scrap them: a large discount towards an electric car; a smaller amount of money towards a modern petrol or diesel car; or credits towards public transport and car sharing club.

A second option would create a clean air zone within the inner ring road. Cars, vans, lorries and buses would be charged if they don't comply with the emissions requirements. There would also be traffic restrictions on Stafford Street, as well as a scrappage scheme.

A huge clean air zone within the city's outer ring road is part of a third option. It would be bordered by Queensway in the East and Raynesway in the West, going as far north as the roundabout at Little Eaton and to Warwick Avenue in the South. A scrappage scheme covering residents of the zone, as well as commuters to Derby would also be introduced.

 

Dundee low emission zone

Low emission zone planned by 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards

Another Scottish town that's expected to ban the most polluting vehicles and fine them if they drive into a low emission zone, Dundee is expected to introduce measures by 2020. The council is drawing up proposals, which are expected to be published shortly.

  

Edinburgh low emission zone

Low emission zone planned by 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards

Scotland's capital city suffers from the worst pollution in the country, with more areas of illegal air quality than anywhere else north of the border. It's currently working on plans for a low-emission zone, which is likely to be finalised this year.

Council documents reveal that a city-wide zone is under consideration, as are a series of mini-zones in the areas of poorest air quality. Vehicles failing to meet modern emission standards will be banned from the affected areas entirely and the Council is considering including private cars in the scheme. Pedestrians and cyclists will be given greater priority at the same time, according to one of the council's transport leaders.

 

Fareham clean air zone

Low emission zone being considered
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards

Fareham residents are currently being consulted over a proposal to introduce a clean air zone on the A27 and A32 , along the south side of the town centre, where air pollution is at its worst.

The council hasn't published any concrete plans, but is considering charges for all types of vehicles. It says that the zone would be a "last resort" and would have "considerable impact on the lives of Fareham and Gosport residents". The consultation closes in October and the responses will influence the council's final plans, which are due to be published shortly.

 

Glasgow low emission zone

Low emission zone rolled out between December 2018 and December 2022
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards 
Low emission charge Drivers of non-compliant vehicles will be fined

Glasgow's low emission zone came into force at the end of 2018. Initially, only local buses in the centre of the city are affected.

The city council plans to extend restrictions to all vehicles, including older petrol and diesel cars, from December 2022. The zone will cover the same central area, which is bordered by the River Clyde, M8 and High Street.

It will be the first test of the penalty model in Britain, where the most polluting vehicles are banned from driving into the zone. Drivers will be sent a penalty if they try. The vehicle criteria and fine amount has not yet been announced.

 

Leeds clean air zone

Clean air zone planned to start on January 6, 2020
Vehicles affected buses, lorries, taxis and minicabs that don't meet minimum emission standards 
Low emission charge £12.50 per day for affected taxis; £50 for lorries, coaches and buses

Leeds' clean air zone has been approved by the government and will encompass a huge area, including the city centre, and a large segment to the north, extending to the outer ring road. It will stretch down to part of the M621 in the south-west.

The zone won’t affect most motorists because it doesn't apply to cars.

Drivers of most lorries first bought before 2014 will be heavily affected, with a £50 daily charge. Most taxi drivers will have to have a petrol-hybrid or fully electric cab to avoid charges of £12.50 per day or £50 per week, although existing drivers have until December 2021 to comply.

A £29m government grant will largely be given to vehicle operators to help them to adapt. HGV firms will share £13.8m to finance cleaner trucks; taxi drivers have been allocated £7.3m to upgrade. Leeds has some of the most polluted roads in the country, with average NOx levels of 55µg/m3, which is 38% above legal limits.

  

London ultra low emission zone (ULEZ)

ULEZ begins April 8
Vehicles affected All vehicles which don't meet minimum emission standards 
Low emission charge £12.50 per day for affected cars; £100 for lorries

The capital's atrocious air quality is expected to be more than double the legal limit in some areas this year, which is why London will be the first city to introduce a low emission zone based on the national minimum emission standards on April 8.

The ULEZ will use the same criteria as other clean air zones, imposing a daily £12.50 fee on all but the latest diesel cars and vans, as well as a £100 day rate for lorries that are more than five years old. The zone is currently limited to the very centre of London, but it will become enormous in 2021, when it is due to expand out to the North and South Circular roads.

A van scrappage scheme is due to be launched before Spring, providing some financial assistance for small business owners to upgrade older diesel vehicles.

London is also planning smaller zero emission zones in the capital from 2020, where all vehicles will be charged unless they are plug-in hybrid, electric or hydrogen vehicles that can run without any exhaust emissions.

 

Manchester clean air zone

Clean air zone Proposed for 2021
Vehicles affected Non-compliant lorries buses and taxis, plus vans from 2023
Clean air zone charge £7.50 for vans and taxis, £100 for lorries and buses

There are 152 stretches of road in Greater Manchester, covering seven local authorities, where NOx levels exceed legal limits, and the widespread pollution is set to result in one of the biggest clean air zones in the country,

The latest plans don't involve privately-owned cars. Instead, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has proposed setting up a zone across the ten Greater Manchester council from 2021, which would impose a £100 daily charge on non-compliant buses, coaches and lorries, and a £7.50 charge for taxis.

Vans would then be included in the scheme from 2023, with a £7.50 charge for non-compliant vehicles.

The Authority will consider the plans on March 1, including the level of penalties.

Greater Manchester was exploring the idea of differential parking charging, where vehicles could be charged based on their emissions but these have now been discounted.

Newcastle low emission zone

Low emission zone proposed from 2021
Vehicles affected Buses, lorries and taxis. Potentially cars and vans

Air pollution exceeds legal limits on the Tyne Bridge and its approaches, as well as part of the Coast Road in North Tyneside and areas of the A1 Western Bypass.

Newcastle City Council is considering imposing a clean air zone that applies to all vehicles in the centres of Newcastle and Gateshead. However, a council study found that it was unlikely to improve air quality to within legal limits by 2021, so the local authority is proposing a series of alternative measures that are likely to affect all road users. 

A low emission zone for buses, lorries and taxis has been suggested for Newcastle City Centre and Gateshead Town Centre, in conjunction with tolls on city centre bridges, which would apply to most vehicles with the exception of public transport and the most economical hybrid cars.

Lorries and vans would be banned from the Central Motorway between the Tyne Bridge and Coast Road during peak traffic hours in the morning (7am to 10am) and evening (4pm to 7pm). The Council is also considering a scrappage scheme for residents with older vehicles, in order to help them upgrade.

A consultation on a full clean air zone and the alternative options will run from early March to May 17, before councillors make their final decision.

 

Oxford zero emission zone

Zero emission zone from 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles that don't run on electric power

Oxford has had a low emission zone in place since 2014 but this has so far only affected buses. It's planning on toughening its approach considerably by making the centre a zero emission zone. This will only be free to electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, along with plug-in hybrid cars that can travel for at least ten miles on electric power alone. A charge would be imposed on other vehicles.

The council has proposed introducing a zone gradually, starting with a small area in the centre of Oxford, around Cornmarket Street. From 2020 it’s suggested that only zero-emissions vehicles will be able to park or load on the street at busy times.

Further restrictions are planned for non-local buses, vans and lorries from 2025. They will need to be zero-emission vehicles in order to drive free of charge through a much larger zone, encompassing the majority of the city centre. The station will be just outside the boundary in the West, and it will cover an area up to Magdalen College in the East.

Those restrictions will extend to all vehicles by 2035, but other vehicles may still be able to drive in the city centre for a fee. The council will consult residents on the proposal this autumn once the details have been finalised.

 

Reading clean air zone

Clean air zone under consideration
Vehicles affected unknown

Reading Borough Council is planning to consult residents over the introduction of a clean air zone to improve air quality, even though nitrogen oxide levels are expected to comply with legal limits by 2020.

The type of vehicles and cost are still under consideration, as is the scope of the zone: officials are examining a wide area, as council documents speak of "tackling higher polluting vehicles travelling through the Reading borough".

 

Sheffield clean air zone

Clean air zone planned for 2020 / 2021
Vehicles affected Lorries, buses, taxis and vans that don't meet minimum emission standards
Clean air zone charge Proposals suggest £10 per day for affected vans and taxis; £50 for lorries and buses

Sheffield City Council has announced proposals for a clean air zone on, and within, the inner ring-road, which would affect most vehicles apart from private cars.

Taxis and vans that don't meet the minimum emission standards below will be subject to a £10 daily charge under the plans. Drivers of older lorries, buses and coaches will have to pay £50 per day. The council will publish a consultation on the plans later this year and will aim to have the zone in place to meet air quality targets by January 2021.

In addition, the council has said that it is considering include introducing anti-idling zones which would require drivers to switch off their engines when parked; retrofitting buses with cleaner engine technology; and potentially a small-scale scrappage scheme for low-income drivers.

High air pollution averages 51µg/m3 in some areas and the council has quoted NHS studies that suggest up to 500 people die early each year in Sheffield because of conditions linked to air pollution.

 

Slough clean air zone

Clean air zone proposal is being examined
Vehicles affected Taxis, buses, coaches, lorries and vans

Slough council has ruled out clean air zone charges for cars, but is considering charges for other types of vehicles.

The proposals, set out in its low emission strategy, published in August 2018, are still at an early stage, with details of the areas under review, and the vehicles that could be affected, still undecided.

  

Warrington clean air zone

Clean air zone proposal being examined
Vehicles affected unknown

Warrington estimates that there were 95 premature deaths in 2013, due to pollution from tiny exhaust particles alone. Even though pollution is predicted to be within EU legal limits this year, the borough council is still considering introducing a clean air zone.

The council is looking into the viability and effectiveness of a zone and says that the location and types of vehicle affected will form part of this. The study is part of the council's latest local transport plan, which is expected to be announced in a consultation document.

 

York clean air zone

Clean air zone proposed for 2020
Vehicles affected Buses failing to meet minimum emission requirements

Figures from York City Council suggest that buses only account for three per cent of traffic in the city but cause 27 per cent of pollution. That's why the city’s clean air zone will only affect buses. From 2020, York plans to ban most buses, which don't meet Euro 6 standards, from the city centre. The council agreed to set up a £1.64 million fund for bus operators to upgrade their vehicles to the required standard.

 

Clean air zones: exempt vehicles

Most clean air zones are expected to exclude or charge vehicles that fail to meet the emission standards below. However, there are likely to be exceptions, particularly for the zero emission zones being planned by London and Oxford.

Vehicle typeMin. emission standard to be exempt
MotorbikesEuro 3 (all models registered since Jul 2007)
Cars & small vansPetrol Euro 4 (Jan 2006)
Diesel Euro 6 (Sep 2015)
Vans & minibusesPetrol Euro 4 (Jan 2007)
Diesel Euro 6 (Sep 2016)
Lorries Euro VI (Jan 2014)
Coaches and busesEuro VI (Jan 2014)
Historic vehicleMore than 40 years old

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