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UK clean air zones: the cities adding low emissions zones in 2023 and how to check if you are affected

Many local authorities are bringing in clean air zones in 2023. Credit: Kim Mogg
Many local authorities are bringing in clean air zones in 2023. Credit: Kim Mogg

Drivers are being urged to check if they are affected as a number of UK cities introduce or expand their low-emissions zones in the coming months.

Two cities will introduce all-new clean air zones in 2023, with another due to tighten restrictions and the possibility of a fourth coming into force as local authorities look to cut pollution. The changes have prompted a warning to drivers to check nearby local restrictions or face potential fines.

The ULEZ (ultra low-emission zone) in London has caused much controversy, with locals angered over the plans to cut down on cars in the capital. Labour even pointed towards this - a policy of Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan - as one of the reasons the party was unable to pick up an extra seat in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election.

Which cities are bringing in clean air zones. Credit: Kim Mogg
Which cities are bringing in clean air zones. Credit: Kim Mogg

Clean air zones apply charges to vehicles which do not meet minimum emissions standards. Most charge tolls of between £7 and £50 on non-compliant vehicles, although fines for non-payment can reach £2,000.

The minimum standards are petrol cars and vans which meet Euro 4 standards; Euro 6-compliant diesel cars and vans; HGVs, buses and coaches that meet Euro VI and Euro 3-compliant motorbikes.

In operation in Tyneside is a Class C clean air zone, covering Newcastle and Gateshead. As of July 2023, non-compliant taxis, private hire vehicles, buses, coaches, HGVs, vans and light goods vehicles have been facing charges if they do not meet the requirements. Cars, minibuses and motorbikes will be exempt from the charges, which are £12.50 a day for vans and taxis and £50 per day for buses, coaches and HGVs.

Sheffield has introduced a Class C clean air zone, which applies to buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans and minibuses. Charges will be £10 per day for non-compliant vans/LGVs and taxis and £50 per day for coaches, buses and lorries/HGVs.

Car and van drivers entering Glasgow will also face penalties after the city’s existing LEZ restrictions were tightened. Since 2018, regulations have covered local service buses but since 1 June 2023, all vehicles entering the zone will have to meet the basic emissions standards or be liable for a fine of £60. There is an extended grace period until June 2024 for residents within the LEZ.

Three other Scottish cities - Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen - introduced LEZ in 2022 but grace periods for drivers run until early 2024 to allow them to switch to compliant vehicles.

Manchester was due to introduce a charged clean air zone but its future is in doubt after the plans were suspended in 2022. The original plan for a Class C charge zone is under review after the government scaled back emissions targets for the city. As a result, Greater Manchester Combined Authority has submitted a new clean air strategy which does not include a charged low-emissions zone.

Motorists in six other English cities already face clean air zone restrictions. Drivers in London are subject to the city’s strict ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) while Birmingham and Bristol both have tough restrictions which affect private cars and vans as well as larger lorries and public transport.

Both Bath and Bradford have Class C clean air zones, which target vans, minibuses, coaches, taxis, HGVs, buses and private hire vehicles but not private cars, while Portsmouth’s Class B restrictions also apply exemptions to vans and minibuses.

Drivers in England can check if their vehicle is exempt from charges by using the government’s online checker tool. Details of exemptions for Scottish cities can be found on the Low Emission Zones Scotland website.

A spokesperson for dash cam and speed camera detector maker Road Angel said: “We welcome changes to improve air quality in our cities but we don’t want these changes to take any drivers by surprise.

“Therefore we are urging drivers who may be visiting any of these cities to check the government’s website to find out if they are required to obtain a permit for a clean air zone. It’s also worth checking the vehicle’s logbook where information on the vehicle’s emission rate can be found to determine if charges can be applicable in clean air zones.”