Take a deep breath. The latest on Clean Air Zones

Clean Air Zone update - October 2020
 
Clean Air Zones are under consideration in towns and cities across the UK in response to Government and
local authority concerns on high levels - sometimes illegally high levels - of air pollution.
 
The first Clean Air Zone impacting on cars and vans/light goods vehicles was introduced in London
on April 8, 2019.
 
Elsewhere numerous towns and cities are considering implementing Clean Air Zones. However, plans, which
require Government approval prior to introduction, are evolving at different rates as significant behind-the-scenes analysis is undertaken.
 
Venson Automotive Solutions published its first Clean Air Zone guide early in 2019 - https://www.venson.com/uploads/pdfs/VENS6373_CleanAirZone_V3-67-2019-49.pdf. The guide was significantly updated in July 2019 and included a city-by-city, town-by-town listing on the roll-out of local plans - https://www.venson.com/Media/ViewWhitePaper/37 
 
Now, as local authority proposals continue to evolve, Venson Automotive Solutions has further updated guidance on an individual city and town basis as the latest developments emerge.
 
Government CAZ vehicle checker

An online vehicle registration checker service is provided by the Government to help drivers and businesses prepare for the introduction of chargeable entry to Clean Air Zones.

The online checker allows drivers and businesses to key in a vehicle’s registration number and see if they will be charged for driving inside a Clean Air Zone.

The online vehicle checker to find out if a daily Clean Air Zone charge applies to a specific vehicle is available at: https://www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge

 
 
Bath and North East Somerset
Bath will launch the first charging clean air zone (CAZ) outside London in March, next year. Bath & North East Somerset Council says it considered air quality, traffic levels and the impacts of Covid-19 on local businesses and the economy, before agreeing the new start date of March 15, with the Government. However, it said that the date will be monitored to account for any significant developments during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The council is currently contacting more than 9,000 local businesses to help them establish whether charges will apply to their vehicles, and how to access the support on offer.
 
The CAZ will operate in the city centre 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Charges will apply to pre-euro 6/VI diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol vehicles, except cars and motorbikes. Non-compliant vans, taxis and minibuses will be charged £9, while non-compliant trucks and lorries, and coaches and buses face a daily charge of £100.
 
Birmingham
The Birmingham scheme will go live in June 2021. Birmingham’s scheme will cover an area of the city inside the inner ring road (A4540 Middleway) and is expected to affect about 25% of vehicles. It’s being backed by a range of exemptions and financial incentives, with a total value of some £35m, to help residents, city centre workers and businesses prepare for its introduction. The scheme will target private cars, buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs). Charges will applyto pre-euro 6 diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol vehicles. 
 
Bradford
City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council has launched a public consultation on its plans for a Clean Air Zone that will impact light commercial vehicles, HGVs, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles, but not private cars.
 
The area proposed for the Class C Clean Air Zone covers the city’s outer ring road - previously a Class D Zone was mooted that would have included private cars. Suggested daily entry charges for non-compliant vehicles are: £50 for HGVs, buses and coaches, £12.50 for taxis and private hire vehicles, and £9 for vans and minibuses.
 
The formal Clean Air Zone plan will be submitted for Government approval in summer 2020. If given the green light implementation of the Zone is scheduled for October 2021.
 
The council is looking at ways to support local businesses and drivers to access cleaner vehicles and is proposing to use funding allocated by Government.
 
The consultation, which runs until March 27, asks for views on the level of funding being proposed for upgrade or retrofit of vehicles to help them meet entry criteria - up to £15,000 for HGVs and up to £5,000 for light goods vehicles and minibuses.
 
Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, said: “This ambitious plan will improve the health of every resident in the district and will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in line with our climate emergency declaration.
 
“These plans are being shaped by the views of local residents and businesses and will improve the environment for people in the district. We need everyone to play their part in making better choices when it comes to air pollution.”
 
One of the schemes being considered to improve air quality is the establishment of an Alternative Energy Centre. It will be a community centre for alternative fuels, including compressed natural gas, biomethane and hydrogen - respondents are asked to rate the impact this it is likely to have as well as whether they’d be likely to use the complex.
 
Further information is available at: https://bradford.moderngov.co.uk/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?ID=231
 
Bristol
Plans to deploy a charging Clean Air Zone in Bristol may not need to go ahead as new work explores alternatives. The plans are being revisited to explore new ways to transform travel – in particular to avoid the challenges drivers and businesses are already facing as a result of the pandemic.

While the council is required to implement a charging Clean Air Zone – in this case a Class C scheme –  by March 2021, it could avoid this if evidence shows another option would reduce air pollution faster. The updated clean air plans include bringing forward ‘fast-track’ additional measures to improve air quality, including recent transport improvements, work to control signals to cut congestion and additional air quality monitoring units to keep track of progress.

There would also be proactive work to encourage residents and businesses to take responsibility for air quality in the city and promote different attitudes to travel and make use of the alternative options available.

The timetable will see the council’s Cabinet consider details for a public consultation planned for this autumn on the new proposals for charging zones, to accompany new evidence being collected. The final business case setting out the council’s preferred scheme would be due by February 2021.

Depending on the outcome of the consultation and new evidence being collected, a small zone could be created in the spring of 2021 but only if needed, potentially going live to the public from October 2021.

But the plans will also include a scheme without charging, as being worked on with the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit.

Cardiff
Road user charging, Low Emission and Clean Air Zones and workplace parking levies are all on Cardiff City Council’s agenda as it seeks to tackle the climate emergency.

The Council’s newly published white paper, ‘Transport Vision to 2030: Changing How We Move Around A Growing City’, sets out a £2 billion vision designed to transform Cardiff and South East Wales' travel network and simultaneously reduce congestion and improve air quality in the Welsh capital. 

The plan has been developed following consultation with thousands of city residents, health and transport experts.

Much of the white paper focuses on:

  • Expanding the South Wales Metro plans with new tram-train routes and station
  • Introducing new Bus Rapid Transit services and park and ride sites and make bus travel cheaper

However, in arguing for a “re-prioritisation of our streets to give more space to people walking and cycling”, the Council will rollout 20mph speed limits across the city and is looking at introducing:

  • A road user charging scheme with a minimum £2 charge for vehicles entering the city. The local authority says its preferred option would be to exempt residents from any charge
  • A workplace parking levy
  • A Low Emission or Clean Air Zone
  • Working with car club operators to provide city-wide, 24-hours-a-day access to vehicles
  • Encourage the uptake of electric vehicles by significantly increasing the number of publicly-available charging points by 2025 - the Council is planning on making all of its fleet cars and light goods vehicles zero-emission capable by 2025, and HGVs zero-emission capable as soon as possible.

Referencing road user charging, workplace parking levies and Low Emission/Clean Air Zones, the paper said all the proposals “will be tested” and that “no scheme will be taken forward unless we are satisfied that such a scheme will work for our residents and the city”. However, the paper made clear that its preferred option was a road user charging scheme with all options to be examined over the next 12 months.

Council leader Huw Thomas said: "The future success of Cardiff hinges on getting transport right in the city. There can’t be anyone who is happy with the current state of affairs which is why we are bringing forward this ambitious 10-year vision.”

Cllr Caro Wild, cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, called Cardiff’s existing transport network “no longer fit for purpose” and added: “One option might be a simple, universal, £2, low-charging system applied to non-Cardiff residents who drive into the city which could reduce congestion, whilst raising money towards paying for improvements to our transport network. We need to get people out of cars and on to public transport. To do that we need to give them the best public transport options. And to do that we need to raise money to pay for them.

“Road user charging isn’t the only option available to raise money and we will be looking at other options in a business case I am recommending we undertake over the next year. No charge will be put in place until that business case is completed and all options have been reviewed, including possible parking place levies and congestion zones.”

In spring 2018 the Welsh Government launched a consultation on the introduction of Clean Air Zones in areas with poor air quality, as referenced in Venson Automotive Solution’s Clean Air Zone update (summer 2019). At the time Cardiff City Council had been directly mandated by the UK Government in Westminster to consider introducing a Clean Air Zone. Subsequently, the Council has announced a package of air quality improvement measures that did not include a Clean Air Zone.

Commenting on the possible introduction of a road user or congestion charge, Sally Gilson, head of policy for Wales at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said: “If the scheme is successful in taking private drivers off the roads, it will make space for the vehicles that truly need access to the city, including commercial vehicle operators who must deliver the goods that supermarkets, hospitals, schools and restaurants all need to operate.

“Too often, these drivers face heavily congested and slow-moving roads. The FTA is also asking for clarification on how the charge will be managed and enforced, and whether the charge will ignite real change or in reality just be an additional tax.

Coventry
A Clean Air Zone will not be introduced in Coventry after the City Council won its battle with the Government.

Last year, the Government ordered the city to introduce a Class D Clean Air Zone, which would have impacted on all vehicles including cars and light commercial vehicles. The Council, which previously agreed not to implement a scheme around the city’s ring road, was told to present a full business case to ministers. A petition was subsequently launched against the Government’s directive.  
 
Now the Government has written to the Council in support of local proposals which set out a series of measures to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, benefiting residents through cleaner air and better health.
 
It means Coventry does not need a Class D charging Clean Air Zone, which would have seen higher emission vehicles charged for entering a large area of the city.
 
The Council has been awarded grant funding of £24.5 million to implement a wide range of other schemes, particularly focused on traffic management and encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles.
 
In the letter to Council leader George Duggins, Rebecca Pow, a junior minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “I am pleased that you have submitted updated modelling in order to meet your direction and that the Council has subsequently worked closely with my officials to refine your options…On the basis of the evidence provided, I am content that you should proceed with implementing your preferred alternative option to a charging Clean Air Zone.”
 
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Council cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, called the decision “excellent” and that it “reflected the overwhelming views of local people and businesses”.
 
He claimed that: “A Clean Air Zone in Coventry would have potentially created worse air quality on many residential roads bordering the charging Zone as drivers would have sought alternative routes to avoid it.”
 
Cllr O’Boyle continued: “In June last year we clearly set out to the Government why a Clean Air Zone would not work in Coventry and is not needed. More than six months on it has confirmed what we have always said.
 
“What we all know is that it is absolutely vital that we tackle air pollution - and particularly vehicle emissions.
 
“We know the health risks of nitrogen dioxide and that is why we want to address this through a package of measures including: highways engineering; improved traffic management; cycle routes; travel planning; upgrading bus fleet; supporting a shift to electric taxis; and encouraging the uptake of electric cars and installing more charging points. We have a lot do.”
 
The legal direction from the Government means the Council will need to submit a final full business case by June 19, 2020, which will feature more details on the schemes now due to get underway. Ahead of the June deadline the local authority will hold further discussions with residents on the proposed measures. The Council has extended the deadline for responses to its draft Air Quality Action Plan until midnight on Sunday 31 May, due to coronavirus.
 
Greater Manchester

The consultation is now open and runs until Thursday 3 December. It invites views on key elements of the proposals, including the proposed Clean Air Zone boundary, daily charges for non-compliant vehicles, discounts and exemptions, and support funding. The plan is for a ‘Class C’ charging Clean Air Zone that would levy penalties on non-compliant buses, coaches and HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles, and light goods vehicles (LGVs), but not cars.

There will also be a temporary exemption for LGVs until 2023. Charges would be enforced on pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles and pre-Euro 4 petrols and apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week, backed up by a network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The consultation invites views on the possible level of charges, which would be set £60 for buses, coaches and HGVs, £7.50 for taxis and private hire vehicles and £10 for LGVs (from 2023). There would also be a Penalty Charge Notice of £120, payable in addition to the unpaid daily charge, reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.

Leeds

Leeds City Council has abandoned plans for a charging Clean Air Zone as a result of a “dramatic shift” by businesses to cleaner vehicles. Leeds said it’s achieved the aims of the Clean Air Zone without having to charge a single vehicle, but is now exploring voluntarily introducing stricter targets.

The ‘Class B’ scheme – which would have levied charges on coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs but not vans or cars – has been on hold for some months after pollution fell due to the pandemic, and a joint review by Leeds City Council and central government has now concluded that it’s no longer needed.

North East England
Newcastle City Council has toned down its Clean Air Zone plans by making private cars exempt from any charge.

Previously, the Council was considering introducing a Class D Clean Air Zone, which would have applied to all vehicles. However, following lengthy and detailed consultations, the Council has downgraded its plans to a Class C Clean Air Zone with charges being applied to HGVs, buses and coaches, vans/light goods vehicles, taxies and private hire vehicles.

As previously announced, non-compliant HGVs, buses and coaches will be charged £50 per day and vans/light goods vehicles, taxies and private hire vehicles £12.50 per day. Minimum entry standards are Euro 4 for petrol vehicles and Euro 6/V1 for diesel vehicles.

The Council also decided to restrict traffic on the Tyne Bridge to one lane in either direction, a development that has been criticised by the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

The FTA said that proposal would “not deliver the desired improvements in air quality and will simply increase road congestion”.

Mags Simpson, head of Northern England policy at FTA, said: “Newcastle City Council needs to reconsider its proposal to close one lane of the Tyne Bridge in each direction; this approach will significantly increase road congestion and air pollution in the local vicinity, and have an impact on journey times and costs.”

Claiming to be “bewildered by this sudden change of plan”, Ms Simpson continued: “The Newcastle Clean Air Zone involves daily charges for vehicles entering the city centre; but not private cars. Cities need goods to operate effectively and these charges are a significant financial burden to any operator trying to work in and around Newcastle; it is unfair to expect businesses to bear the cost of cleaning Newcastle’s air alone.”

The plans for the Clean Air Zone, which is slated for introduction in 2021, must be approved by the Government.

The Newcastle Clean Air Zone plans are part of a wider North East England air quality improvement initiative also involving local authorities covering Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside.

North Staffordshire
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council are investigating ways to reduce air pollution in certain areas by 2021, predominantly in and around the A53 corridor - but a Clean Air Zone is now viewed as unlikely although a workplace parking levy is reported to be under consideration.
 
The Government has ordered the councils to evaluate various options, and develop a preferred approach that improves air quality on the A53 and in other parts of the city and borough in the shortest possible time.
 
Traffic surveys have recently been carried out to understand how people, taxi drivers and businesses with higher polluting vehicles use the A53 between the A500 and Newcastle town centre, Festival Park and Hanley, as well as surrounding areas. Additionally, motorists have been asked how they would respond if a charging Clean Air Zone was to be introduced.
 
The information gathered from the five-week exercise is now being used by the local authorities to develop alternative, non-charging traffic management solutions. However, it has emerged that a workplace parking levy could also be under consideration, according to local newspaper reports although no further details are available.
 
Councillor Trevor Johnson, borough cabinet member for environment and recycling, said: “The Government has determined that Clean Air Zones are the most effective way of resolving this issue quickly and has instructed that other methods must be measured against this benchmark.
 
“The Borough Council has serious concerns about a chargeable Clean Air Zone, and the impact it could have on the local economy. We are keen to rigorously test credible alternative options which we believe can deliver the same improvement, in the same time frame, such as improving air quality through improved traffic management. This research is hugely important as it will give us real data about how drivers would respond to a Clean Air Zone and help us to identify the most appropriate solution to the air quality problem.”
 
Oxford
UK’s first Zero Emission Zone banning all but electric and hydrogen vehicles from free-entry is scheduled to be
introduced in Oxford city centre later this year and to be expanded further afield in 2021/22.
 
The far-reaching two-phase measure has been revealed in final draft proposals that are
now open to public consultation.
 
As previously reported - https://www.venson.com/Media/ViewWhitePaper/37 - the plans see the city taking a staggered approach towards its final target of zero transport emissions within its boundaries by 2035.
 
The informal consultation on phase one, the Red  Zone, which essentially covers five city centre streets, runs until the end of January. Both Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are seeking feedback on: 
  • Charge levels for non-compliant vehicles - cars, vans, HGVs and mopeds/motorcycles - of £10 per day charge is suggested rising to £20 per day in December 2024 
  • The Zone’s hours of operation – 7am-7pm is recommended
  • Whether discounts should be available for all blue badge holders entering the Zone until December 2024 and a 90% discount for residents living in the Zone until December 2030
  • What future phases of the Zero Emission Zone should include, and when they should be implemented. The draft document proposes the creation of a Green Zone covering the rest of the city centre in 2021/22, which would be accessed free of charge by zero emission vehicles and with discounted charges for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards (Euro6/VI for diesel vehicles/Euro 4 for petrol vehicles).
The document also proposes exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until December 2024, followed by a 50% discount until December 2030 when a £10 per day charge would be levied.
 
The Councils say that exempting vehicles registered to businesses within the Red Zone from any charge until December 2024, allows employers time to transition to zero emissions fleets. Deliveries in non-zero emission vehicles may be made free of charge outside of the operating hours of the Red Zone.
 
Under the proposals, a compliant vehicle is considered to be one that matches the Government’s Plug-In grant criteria - allowing some plug-in hybrids (cars with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 70 miles without any emissions at all and vans with CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and can travel at least 10 miles without any emissions at all) and hydrogen vehicles, as well as 100% electric vehicles.
 
Following the feedback, the Red Zone will then go to formal consultation in March, and the draft charging order published, with both Councils making a formal decision on implementation in the spring, which could mean the scheme coming into effect in December 2020.
 
Under the proposals, zero emission vehicles would be able to drive in the Red Zone, which consists of Bonn Square, Queen Street, Cornmarket, Ship Street, St Michael’s Street, and New Inn Hall Street - free of charge.
 
The Councils say that buses and taxis are already on agreed journeys towards zero emission fleets. From January 2020, all Hackney Carriage Vehicles licenced in Oxford will be moving towards becoming zero emission by 2025, with phased emission standards. The councils are also working with bus companies operating in Oxford to move towards zero emission by 2035 at the latest, but are working to achieve that by 2030 if possible.
 
Meanwhile, as part of its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030, Oxfordshire County Council has already started switching to an electric fleet, with the aim of being electric for most of its cars and vans by 2024 and 2028 respectively. New e-bikes have also joined the fleet meaning that staff unused to cycling can get to local meetings more easily under their own steam.
 
The City Council’s wholly-owned direct services company, Oxford Direct Services Ltd has committed to electrifying at least 25% of its fleet by 2023. The City Council currently has 50 hybrid and electric vehicles in its fleet. That, it says, has contributed to the reduction of the City Council’s emissions by 10% in the last year, and by 40% in the last five years.
 
The Green Zone due to cover the remainder of the city centre and slated for implementation in 2021/22, would operate alongside the Red Zone, with separate requirements.
 
That could involve a charging scheme with:
  • Daily charges for high emission vehicles - worse than Euro 6/VI diesel or Euro 4 petrol
  • A discounted daily charge for low emission vehicles - Euro 6/VI diesel, Euro 4 petrol or better, and/or for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards
  • No charge for zero emission vehicles
  • Discounts for residents’ cars, vans or motorcycles.
Greater detail around the implementation of the Green Zone and how it would work is subject to further technical work, and consultation in 2020.
 
Councillor Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for environment, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Not only will this project make a huge difference to the quality of life and health of people living and working in the city centre, we are showing that it is possible as we start to respond seriously to the climate emergency. This is a great way to start an important decade of climate action.”
 
Christopher Benton, director of Oxford-based logistics Pedal & Post, said: “We now work with over 80 local businesses delivering everything from parcels to veg boxes to urgent medication and we've managed to save an estimated 30 tons of CO2 from cycling across 2019. The Zero Emission Zone gives us as a local business the confidence to invest further and be much more ambitious in 2020 to help Oxford towards emission free deliveries.”
  • Further information is available at: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/news/article/1288/final_draft_proposals_published_in_countdown_to_oxford_zero_emission_zone
Portsmouth
The Government has directed Portsmouth City Council to implement a class B CAZ (which would affect HGVs but not vans), and, at present, the City Council is not proposing to include vans. However, due to the uncertainty brought about by the Coronavirus, central Government has indicated that it may require the charging of non-compliant vans to ensure Portsmouth meets air quality objectives, so the consultation also sought the views of van operators.

The scheme is expected to be introduced in late 2021, covering an area focused around the city centre and south-west of Portsea Island.

York
York could become the first city in the UK to ban cars from its centre under new plans to improve air quality.
 
Under the proposals, City of York Council aims to stop all non-essential private car journeys within the city walls by 2023. It has also said that it would work with businesses to make sure deliveries continued and companies were not negatively impacted by the changes.
 
This month (January), the Council is phasing in a Clean Air Zone for buses with a minimum standard for the emissions of vehicles travelling on and inside the Inner Ring Road.
 
Last year, the Council also introduced anti-idling measures. Signs have been installed across the city urging drivers to switch off their engines while parked. Those who are asked to turn off their vehicles but refuse to do so can now be fined £20 and could be prosecuted if they fail to pay.
 
However, the Council’s latest moves to improve air quality go further than any city to date including Bristol, which, among other measures, plans to ban all privately owned diesel cars from a section of the city centre from March 2021 if the measure is given Government approval.
 
Additionally, the Council has said that it would work with traders in any plans to ensure deliveries continue and businesses were not negatively impacted by any changes to city centre access; work with disability groups and Blue Badge holders to ensure they could still enter the city; and would ban all non-essential cars from accessing roads around the city’s primary schools at drop-off and pick-up times.
 
The measures are part of the Council’s plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. Councillors claim that by reducing and removing non-essential car journeys across the city, whilst improving the attractiveness of other travel options - cycling and faster, more reliable public transport - will boost air quality.
 
The plan “to restrict all non-essential private motor vehicle journeys within the city walls by 2023” was proposed at a full Council meeting by Labour councillor Jonny Crawshaw and secured majority support.
 
Councillor Andy D’Agorne, deputy leader of City of York Council and executive member responsible for transport, said: “Reducing congestion and supporting more residents and visitors to move around our wonderful city through walking, cycling and public transport is essential to meet our ambition.
 
“Our largely pedestrianised shopping areas have already transformed the city centre and we are looking at options to take this to the next level. A car free and thriving city centre - which is accessible to those with limited mobility like blue badge holders - is achievable but only through detailed planning and engagement with those most affected by the proposals. 
 
“Responding to the climate emergency will be a city-wide effort and we will develop our plans with York residents and businesses in the next year as we work to become a cleaner, greener city.”
 
A Council spokeswoman officers would develop the plan and how they could be implemented, while also taking account of other initiatives including the authority’s local transport plan and ‘my city centre’ plan, with the aim of councillors discussing proposals at the end of 2020.
 
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