Guide to Clean Air Zones

As part of the Government’s long term strategy to improve air quality, clean air zones are being introduced across the country. By discouraging the use of older, more polluting, vehicles, clean air zones reduce the number of areas in the UK where air pollution breaches legal limits.

What is a clean air zone?

A clean air zone is an area where targeted action is being taken to improve the air quality. They also support the economic growth of that city or town. Clean air zones aim to address all sources of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

These zones can be confined to a single road or part of a city. If your vehicle exceeds the emission standards you may have to pay a fee to drive in a clean air zone.

Clean air zones aim to address all sources of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Local authorities are responsible for implementing clean air zones. Councils need to submit an action plan to the Government. Once this is approved, the local authority can receive funding to help implement a clean air zone.

Types of zones

At the moment, there are four different types of clean air zones in place:

Class A

Includes buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles

Class B

Includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and heavy goods vehicles

Class C

Includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans and minibuses

Class D

Includes buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars. The local authority also has the option to include motorbikes

Minimum emission standard of vehicles

Every vehicle will have a minimum emission standard which you can find in your vehicle log book or from the manufacturer directly. In order to avoid paying a fee in a clean air zone, your vehicle must meet the following minimum standard.

For all vans and cars, including minibuses, taxis, and private hire, the following emissions standards must be met:

Petrol – Euro 4

Diesel – Euro 6

For motorbikes the minimum standard is Euro 3 and for larger vehicles, such as heavy goods vehicles, coaches and buses the standard is Euro VI.

Despite these categories, some local authorities can set their own emission standards for private hire vehicles and taxis. If you’re unsure whether your vehicle is compliant with a clean air zone, the best thing to do is contact the authority directly.

Cities with clean air zones in place

There are currently six clean air zones in place across England, these are:

PlaceClean Air Zone Class
BathClass C
BirminghamClass D
BradfordClass C
BristolClass D
PortsmouthClass D
Sheffield*Class C
TynesideClass D
Greater Manchester(Under Review)

* Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone will be introduced in late February 2023.

Do I need to pay to drive in a clean air zone?

The categories above should give you a rough idea of whether you’d need to pay to drive to a city that has a clean air zone in place. However, you can enter your reg number on the Government’s website for more information about charges in each zone. You can also pay any charges here.

Unlike the London Congestion Charge and Ultra-Low Emission Zone, clean air zones operate 24/7 every day of the year so it’s important to check before you travel. When you do receive a charge you will need to pay this by 11:59pm on the sixth day after your journey. If you do not pay the charges in time you could receive further fines.

Are there vehicle exemptions of clean air zones?

Each city has its own individual exceptions to these zones, but you are automatically nationally exempt if you have:

  • A vehicle that has ultra-low emissions
  • A disabled passenger tax class vehicle
  • A disabled tax class vehicle
  • A military vehicle
  • A historic vehicle
  • A vehicle retrofitted with technology accredited by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme
  • Certain types of agricultural vehicle

You can use the following links to find out if your vehicle is exempt from clean air zones in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Greater Manchester, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Tyneside.

1 thought on “Guide to Clean Air Zones”

  1. Policing Through

    Let me take the Portsmouth clean air zone example. I know because I live here. Portsmouth has 3 roads on and off the island and is the densest populated city in the country outside parts of London.

    You would like to think that the 3 roads feeding the city would be the ones in a clean air zone. Not a bit of it. The zone is found in the south west corner of the city where there is little congestion and traffic. How can this be? Very simply, the prevailing wind is south westerly, which means that it blows from the south west. Thus, the wind travels across the harbour entrance onto the island.

    Portsmouth is home to the Royal Navy, handles something like 70% of all bananas, has a small container port, ferry port and cruise liner mooring. It is also home to numerous small boat marinas, so all in all, it is a pretty busy place.

    Marine engines are not subject to the same emission controls as terrestrial motors. The net result is that all sorts of nasty smells emanate from marine engines and are blown over the SW corner of the island.

    The traffic jams present no worries. Therefore, in a ‘me too’ gesture, we have a class D zone. The council has spent a fortune replacing the private companies’ bus engines to solve a non problem. SadIQ Khan would be proud.

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