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Blog Post 21 September 2021

A quick guide to England’s clean air zones

The UK Government has banned the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2030, and hybrid cars from 2035, to help tackle greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

The ban will help speed up the transition to electric vehicles and will support the country’s ambition to reach net zero by 2050. It will also help to tackle air pollution in town and cities across the UK.

Over the next few years, cities around the country are introducing clean air zones (CAZs) in a bid to reduce pollution and improve the quality of life for residents. Removing more polluting vehicles from city and town centres will have a positive impact on the health of both residents and the environment.

We’ve put together this quick guide to clean air zones in England.

What are clean air zones?

Clean air zones are areas that charge or penalise highly polluting vehicles based on their Euro emission standard.

Vehicles with higher emissions are either unable to enter the designated area, or in some zones, they must pay an additional charge to enter.

These zones are implemented in areas where air pollution levels are dangerous to health. The zones improve the quality of local air, making it safer to breathe.

Why do we need them?

These zones are often the best way for towns and cities to improve local air pollution, and they have been shown to reduce pollutants including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter.

Implementing CAZs across England is key to improving air quality, protecting public health, and supporting the transition to a low carbon future.

The World Health Organisation estimates that poor air quality leads to over four million premature deaths every year – and in the UK, the main source of air pollution is transport.

What are the benefits?

Cleaner air benefits everyone, but it’s especially important for the elderly and young children, as well as those with existing health conditions.

Removing or limiting the number of polluting vehicles that can enter a city or town centre will improve its air quality, having a positive impact on the health of those living and working there.

Other benefits of clean air zones include:

  • Helping to accelerate the uptake of low or zero emissions vehicles, such as electric vehicles.
  • Encouraging residents to use public transport or active travel methods.
  • Reducing congestion in busy town and city centres.
woman walking with dog on pavement

Where are they currently?

Many local authorities in England were due to implement a clean air zone during 2020, however several have been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The table below has information about current and upcoming clean air zones across England:

LondonLondon has had a low emission zone since 2008, covering the Greater London area, and introduced the UK's first ultra low emission zone in 2020, which covers the same area as the congestion charge zone.
BathBath introduced a clean air zone in March 2021.
BirminghamBirmingham brought in its clean air zone on 1 June 2021.
BrightonBrighton has had a low emission zone in place since 2015, but it currently only applies to local buses.
NorwichNorwich's clean air zone currently only applies to local buses.
OxfordOxford started charging drivers of non-compliant vehicles in its zero emission zone in August 2021.
PortsmouthPortsmouth is set to introduce a clean air zone in November 2021.
ManchesterThe city of Manchester will see a CAZ introduced next year, in May 2022.

How can I switch to a compliant vehicle?

To avoid being charged or penalised when entering a clean air zone, your vehicle must meet the following minimum standards in England:

Vehicle typeMinimum standard
Buses, coaches, heavy goods vehiclesEuro VI
Vans, minibuses, taxis, private hire vehicles, carsEuro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol)
MotorcyclesEuro 3

You can check whether you’ll be charged to drive in a CAZ using this tool – just enter the number plate of the vehicle you want to drive.

You can also get support to help reduce your emissions and switch to a lower or zero emission vehicle, like an electric car.

The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) offers grants to help you purchase an electric vehicle and we have more advice and support to help you make the switch.

Last updated: 16 September 2021