A complete guide to Clean Air Zones

Plans were announced in October 2017 for Oxford to become the world’s first zero emissions city zone. The area also has an ambition to ban all petrol and diesel cars from its city centre district come 2020.

Announcements such as these highlight that the UK is determined with its plan to ban sales of all new diesel and petrol cars by the time we reach 2040, with the move being made as the nation aims to clean up its air quality. It’s not just Oxford which has looked into Clean Air Zones mind. The government has revealed five UK cities that plan to have a Clean Air Zone by 2020, including Birmingham, Southampton and Leeds.

To understand how Clean Air Zones will work and the effects they will have on drivers across the UK, Jaguar F Pace retailer Grange investigates…

The definition of a Clean Air Zone

When defining a Clean Air Zone, the UK government has detailed that it as “an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth”.

There will be access restrictions enforced around ‘clean zones’ as part of the programme, to try and encourage the use of cleaner vehicles on the nation’s roads. High polluting vehicles such as busses, HGV’s and taxis will be faced with a charge for entering these zones – however, private cars will not be affected by these charges yet. Fully electric vehicles and vehicles which meet the definition of an ultra-low emission vehicles will be exempt from paying entering charges. However, other vehicles are separated into different classes, and charges will depend on which class they fall into.

Finding a Clean Air Zone near you

When setting out the programme, the UK government picked the areas of the nation with the poorest air quality. Clean Air Zones are therefore expected to be introduced in Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby by 2020, in an attempt to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide back down to the legal limit. The zones will most likely be introduced in the city centres, and restrictions can involve entry charges, time-of-day restrictions and/or blanket vehicle bans.

Research is also being carried out to determine the feasibility of setting up further Clean Air Zones in more UK cities, including Manchester. The Sunday Times suggests that over 35 urban areas could be included in this plan, whereby both private and public vehicles could be banned on the roads during peak traffic hours in city centres.

When focused on the most polluted cities of the UK, so called ‘toxin taxes’ may work out at as high as £20 per day. However, the government is keen to point out that they don’t want to punish drivers who bought their diesel cars because of successive governments – they don’t want drivers to feel they are being hit hard for incentives that previous governments had encouraged.

Understanding who will be affected by Clean Air Zones

Fixed charges won’t be in place at every Clean Air Zone straight away. These instead will be decided by local councils and authorities. Penalties are not compulsory for city Clean Air Zones either. However, councils which do implement charges have the right to charge additional penalty fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges.

You won’t be instantly penalised if you’re a private car owner based within a Clean Air Zone once they’re introduced either. Instead, the zones will charge drivers of buses, taxis and HGV’s which contribute the most air pollution. Charges have not been finalised yet, but they will be issued depending on which class, or category, your vehicles falls under. There are four classes, A, B, C and D and are identified on vehicle type depending on your emissions and euro standard.

Wondering exactly where your vehicle is positioned against the rules being put in place for Clean Air Zones? The government has released a handy report which clearly outlines the Clean Air Zone framework.

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