What are Clean Air Zones and how do 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 s of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and reduce public exposure to them.

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’ exhaust 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?

Five cities were required to by the government to reduce air pollution. These were Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton. We explain the measures they have taken below.

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


Extinction Rebellion in Birmingham

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone goes live on 1 June 2021. It covers everywhere within the A4540 Middleway ring road – but not the Middleway itself.

The government told Birmingham City Council it 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. Failure to pay the charge results in a £120 fine, which is reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.

The City is working with car supermarket Motorpoint to offer those who work within the CAZ a £2,000 scrappage scheme to trade in their non-compliant car.

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 introducing 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 Derby proposal does not include a CAZ or any form of charging.


The planned Clean Air Zone is no longer required, concluded a joint review by Leeds City Council and the government.

Council leader James Lewis said: “We have achieved the aims of the Clean Air Zone without having to charge a single vehicle. If Leeds were to introduce a CAZ today, only a fraction of vehicles would be affected because the vast majority of businesses are now driving cleaner vehicles than they were just a few years ago.”

However, the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras installed to enforce the zone will remain in place. This means that, if air quality declines again, a Leeds CAZ could still potentially be introduced.


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

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 has introduced a Class C Clean Air Zone, meaning charges only apply to taxis, vans, buses, coaches and HGVs that do not meet the required emission standards. Drivers of private cars and motorcycle riders don’t have to pay, even if using their vehicle for work.

Bristol plans to introduce a Class D Clean Air Zone from 21 October 2021. The planned charge will be £9 per day for private cars, rising to £100 for coaches and HGVs. Bristol City Council says it will allow drivers of older cars to apply for a one-year exemption from the charge.

Local authorities in the North East have announced plans for a Tyneside charging CAZ and a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Newcastle. They won a court challenge against the schemes, but the process has been delayed by other legal issues.

Sheffield City Council plans to introduce a Class C Clean Air Zone in 2021, with polluting HGVs, buses, coaches, LGVs and taxis charged to enter the inner ring road and city centre. The city will not charge drivers of private cars, though, saying: “Private cars make up 80 percent of road traffic, but only contribute 50 percent of the pollution”.

A proposed CAZ in Manchester would cover all 10 local authority areas, with further schemes also expected in Oxford, Cambridge, York, Bradford, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. Watch this space.

Will Clean Air Zones 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.


How to prevent your car’s catalytic converter being stolen

Yellow box junctions: how much is the fine and how can I avoid a penalty?

MOT checks: What is checked in a car MOT test?

(Visited 4 times, 1 visits today)