Clean air zone charges: where are Britain's low emission zones?

Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow & Southampton latest to announce clean air zone charges: see a map of low emission zones & how much you'll pay

Dominic Tobin
Nov 15, 2018

Most diesel drivers face daily charges of up to £12.50 a day in city centres across Britain, after Bath and Birmingham joined London in announcing plans for clean air zone charges.

The schemes - also known as low emission zones - will target older, more polluting cars in an effort to cut toxic air pollution to within legal limits. Cameras will monitor traffic entering the zones to ensure that fees are paid, with the threat of £120 fines if drivers fail to do so.

Diesel owners will be worst-affected, as most vehicles that were on the road before September 2015 don't meet the latest emissions standard, known as Euro 6, making them subject to the charges. These account for around 9.5 million of the 12.9 million diesel cars on British roads. Petrol cars produce fewer harmful compounds, so cars built since 2006 will be unaffected, along with all electric cars and most hybrids.

The first scheme will come into force from April 8 next year, in London, where an ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) will impose daily tolls of £12.50 per day for affected cars. Lorries that don't meet the standard face £100 daily charges. 

Birmingham and Bath plan to set up similar schemes in 2020, charging £12.50 and £9 per day respectively. Eventually, almost 20 councils could set up clean air zones, with signs that look similar to the pictures above. Scottish cities plan to ban older vehicles from driving in city centres altogether, but other areas, including Leeds and Sheffield have proposed zones that only charge lorries buses and taxis - not private cars or vans. Our map, below, shows where the zones are likely to appear.

Birmingham has submitted its plans to the government for final approval and its decision will encourage more cities to do the same, according to Waseem Zaffar, the cabinet member responsible for transport at Birmingham City Council. "Other cities are seriously considering a clean air zone D [which includes charges for private cars]," he told a council meeting on September 10. "They are waiting on how Birmingham puts its proposals forward."

You can see full details of the vehicles affected by clean air zone charges at the bottom of the page. Further into the future, zero emission zones will bring in much stricter limits: some mayors want petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030 in their cities. Scroll down for more details of what's proposed in each clean air zone


Clean air zones map

Full details of low emission zone proposals - click below

What are clean air zones and low emission zones?

Clean air zones are set up in areas where air pollution exceeds legal limits, and councils are taking action to cut emissions. This ranges from improving traffic flow to charging the most polluting vehicles (mostly older diesels) a daily rate. Charging schemes are also known as low emission zones.

In other words, a clean air zone (CAZ) is exactly the opposite of its title. They are starting to be set up across the country, as European law forces Britain to clean up areas where air pollution is at illegal levels. This won't be affected by Brexit because the legislation is duplicated in British law. 

Not all clean air zones involve vehicle charges, as some councils say that they can improve air quality sufficiently by adjusting traffic light timing to keep traffic flowing, or reducing car numbers with a park and ride scheme, for example. However, increasing numbers of councils plan to charge the most polluting vehicles that drive through the zone. Many, shown on the map below, plan to do so, using automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR) to track vehicles and check their emission rating.


Cars exempt from clean air zone and low emission zone charges

All clean air zones are expected to comply with a government guidelines which make the most modern and cleanest vehicles exempt from CAZ charges. These vehicles comply with recent emission standards known as Euro 4, 5 and 6. These include:

  • Petrol cars meeting the Euro 4 standard or later (including every car sold since January 2006) and
  • Diesel cars that meet the tougher Euro 6 standard (including every car sold since September 2015).
  • Electric cars

The rules are similar for vans, while lorries and coaches registered since 2014 will also be exempt, as will motorbikes sold over the past ten years. See full details in the table below

Clean air zones and low emission zones: current and future

Aberdeen low emission zone

Low emission zone planned by 2020
Vehicles affected Buses and lorries failing to meet minimum emission standards

Aberdeen is one of four Scottish cities where low emission zones are planned by 2020. Unlike Glasgow's wide-ranging scheme that will ban older cars and taxis from city centre roads, Aberdeen is only looking at restricting buses and lorries.

As with other Scottish schemes, you're not expected to have the option of a daily charge if you have a vehicle that doesn't meet the required standard. Drivers of banned buses and lorries are likely to be issued with a penalty fee for driving in the zone, which a government consultation has suggested would be higher than a standard clean air zone charge.


Bath & North East Somerset clean air zone

Clean air zone planned for the end of 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards Low emission charge £9 for non-compliant cars; £100 for lorries and buses

Bath & North East Somerset Council has published plans to charge drivers of older cars £9 per day to drive into Bath, saying that this is the most effective way to cut harmful nitrogen oxide levels by 2021.

It is consulting over the proposals for a clean air zone to cover the city centre, including the roads around Bath Spa station and the Royal Crescent, from the end of 2020. The boundary roughly follows the A36, to the south and east of the river Avon, and it runs along a jagged line from Cleveland Place to Sion Hill. The area incorporates the Botanical Gardens to the west of the city.

The criteria are the same as for other charging schemes: only the latest Euro 6 diesel cars and vans are exempt (including all cars first registered since September 2015 and vans since September 2016), along with all petrol cars registered since 2006. Drivers of most lorries, coaches and buses registered before 2014 will pay a £100 daily charge, and the scheme will be enforced by cameras.

Residents of the zone won't be offered any discounts, so anyone with a car that doesn't meet the standards will have to pay £9 as soon as they move their car. Vehicles that remain parked won't have to pay the daily charge.

However, the council has announced concessions that will mean most blue badge holders, registered healthcare providers, as well as drivers of diesel hybrids and diesel taxis, won't be charged until January 2022.


Birmingham clean air zone

Clean air zone planned for the end of 2019
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards
Low emission charge £6 to £12.50 for non-compliant cars; £50 to £100 for lorries and buses

Birmingham is second only to London in its peak air pollution figures, with air pollution from nitrogen oxides (NOx) expected to average 53 microgrammes (µg) per cubic metre in 2018, well above the legal limit of 40µg/m3.

City councillors have approved proposals for a large clean air zone within (but not on) the A4540 middle ring road. If approved by the government (which is seen as likely) the charging zone will include the A38 Queensway through the centre of the city, which is the cause of much of the poor air quality.

All vehicles that don't meet the minimum emission standards (including most diesel cars sold before September 2015) would incur a charge. The council is considering a fee of between £6 and £12.50 per day for cars and its documents suggest that the charge will be at the higher end of this. Charges for lorries and buses will be between £50 and £100.

However, officials plan to make anyone living inside the zone exempt from the charges for at least a year. Key workers and low-income employees with jobs within the zone, as well as hospital patients and visitors, would not have to pay in the first year either.

At the same time, Birmingham is using £2.92m of government grant money to increase electric vehicle charging points, and is ordering hydrogen-powered buses. There's an chance of a local scrappage scheme to help zone residents with of older cars to upgrade to cleaner models. This is likely to be dependant on the government approving a request for £36m for various projects to improve air quality.


Bristol clean air zone

Clean air zone under consideration
Vehicles affected unknown

Bristol City Council is currently considering everything and nothing: from a clean air zone that brings in some measures to reduce emissions without charging, to the full London option, where all older vehicles will have to pay to drive in a sizeable area of Bristol. Five different proposals are currently being considered before councillors make their decision at the end of this year,


Cambridge clean air zone

Clean air zone being examined for 2020
Vehicles affected unknown

Cambridge has recently published its Air Quality Action Plan, which includes mention of a feasibility study into a Clean Air Zone. If it goes ahead, the Zone will cover central Cambridge and come into place during 2020, according to the document.

The study will consider the effect of including private cars in the charging scheme, as well as buses, taxis and lorries. One possibility involves "potentially permitting access to low emission vehicles only", alongside reducing the amount of parking available in the city, the plan states.


Cardiff clean air zone

Clean air zone feasibility study underway
Vehicles affected unknown

Cardiff has the worst pollution in Wales, and NOx levels exceed legal limits in some areas of the city, It has been told to investigate the possibility of a clean air zone by the Welsh government and is due to report back in 2019 with a proposal to improve air quality. It's too early to tell whether vehicle charging will form part of this.


Derby clean air zone

Clean air zone a possibility
Vehicles affected Either none, or all lorries, buses, vans and cars failing to meet minimum emission standards

Derby is one of five councils outside London that have been told to set up clean air zones to deal with air pollution that's far in excess of legal limits (more than 10µg/m3 over the 40µg/m3 standard in Derby's case).

It has published a consultation with three options, two of which include charging cars that don't meet minimum emission standards.

However, the council says that its preferred option involves restricting traffic on Stafford Street, part of the city's inner ring road where air pollution is particularly bad. The council would also set up a scrappage scheme, which would offer drivers of older cars one of three incentives to scrap them: a large discount towards an electric car; a smaller amount of money towards a modern petrol or diesel car; or credits towards public transport and car sharing club.

A second option would create a clean air zone within the inner ring road. Cars, vans, lorries and buses would be charged if they don't comply with the emissions requirements. There would also be traffic restrictions on Stafford Street, as well as a scrappage scheme.

A huge clean air zone within the city's outer ring road is part of a third option. It would be bordered by Queensway in the East and Raynesway in the West, going as far north as the roundabout at Little Eaton and to Warwick Avenue in the South. A scrappage scheme covering residents of the zone, as well as commuters to Derby would also be introduced.


Dundee low emission zone

Low emission zone planned by 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards

Another Scottish town that's expected to ban the most polluting vehicles and fine them if they drive into a low emission zone, Dundee is expected to introduce measures by 2020. The council is drawing up proposals, which are expected to be published shortly.


Edinburgh low emission zone

Low emission zone planned by 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards

Scotland's capital city suffers from the worst pollution in the country, with more areas of illegal air quality than anywhere else north of the border. It's currently working on plans for a low-emission zone, which is likely to be finalised next year.

Council documents reveal that a city-wide zone is under consideration, as are a series of mini-zones in the areas of poorest air quality. Vehicles failing to meet modern emission standards will be banned from the affected areas entirely and the Council is considering including private cars in the scheme. It's expected to announce more information on the plans later this summer


Fareham clean air zone

Low emission zone being considered
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards

Fareham residents are currently being consulted over a proposal to introduce a clean air zone on the A27 and A32 , along the south side of the town centre, where air pollution is at its worst.

The council hasn't published any concrete plans, but is considering charges for all types of vehicles. It says that the zone would be a "last resort" and would have "considerable impact on the lives of Fareham and Gosport residents". The consultation closes in October and the responses will influence the council's final plans, which are due to be published by the end of the year. 


Glasgow low emission zone

Low emission zone rolled out between December 2018 and December 2022
Vehicles affected All vehicles failing to meet minimum emission standards 
Low emission charge Drivers of non-compliant vehicles will be fined

Glasgow's low emission zone will come into force at the end of this year. Initially, only local buses in the centre of the city will be affected.

The city council plans to extend restrictions to all vehicles, including older petrol and diesel cars, from December 2022. The zone will cover the same central area, which is bordered by the River Clyde, M8 and High Street.

It will be the first test of the penalty model in Britain, where the most polluting vehicles are banned from driving into the zone. Drivers will be sent a penalty if they try. The vehicle criteria and fine amount has not yet been announced.


Leeds clean air zone

Clean air zone planned to start on January 6, 2020
Vehicles affected buses, lorries, taxis and minicabs that don't meet minimum emission standards 
Low emission charge £12.50 per day for affected taxis; £50 for lorries, coaches and buses

Leeds' planned clean air zone will encompass a huge area, including the city centre, and a large segment to the north, extending to the outer ring road. It will stretch down to part of the M621 in the south-west.

Drivers of most lorries first bought before 2014 will be heavily affected, with a £50 daily charge. Taxi drivers will have to have a petrol-hybrid or fully electric cab to avoid charges of £12.50 per day or £50 per week, under the plans which are due to be voted on by councillors this month. If approved, the council will seek permission from the government to begin operating the zone from January 6, 2020.

The zone shouldn't affect motorists because it won't apply to cars. The council will apply to the government for a £27m grant, largely to help taxi drivers upgrade to cleaner vehicles.

Leeds has some of the most polluted roads in the country, with average NOx levels of 55µg/m3, which is 38% above legal limits. Its modelling is said to show that emissions can be cut adequately without having an impact on car owners.


London ultra low emission zone

T-Charge already in place. Ultra low emission zone due to begin next April
Vehicles affected All vehicles which don't meet minimum emission standards 
Low emission charge £12.50 per day for affected cars; £100 for lorries

The capital's atrocious air quality is expected to be more than double the legal limit in some areas this year, which is why London was the first to introduce a low emission zone for all vehicles, called T-Charge, which began operating last October. Charges only apply to cars, vans, coaches and lorries that are more than a decade old, but the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) will have a much greater impact next year.

The ULEZ will use the same criteria as other clean air zones, imposing a daily £12.50 fee on all but the latest diesel cars and vans, as well as a £100 day rate for lorries that are more than five years old. The zone is currently limited to the very centre of London, but it will become enormous in 2021, when it is due to expand out to the North and South Circular roads.

In addition, London plans zero emission zones in the capital from 2020, where all vehicles will be charged unless they are plug-in hybrid, electric or hydrogen vehicles that can run without any exhaust emissions.


Manchester clean air zone

Clean air zone has been considered for 2020
Vehicles affected unknown

Seven local authorities in Greater Manchester have roads where air pollution exceeds legal limits, and so residents in the area could find themselves negotiating three different clean air zones.

According to a report in the Manchester Evening News last year, officials were considering charging older cars £7.50 a day to drive in the affected area. That was contradicted by statements by Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester's elected Mayor, who hinted that banning the most polluting vehicles - particularly lorries - from certain roads, could help to improve air quality without the need for charging.

Another option being explored by Manchester is differential parking charging, where vehicles could be charged based on their emissions. All is expected to be revealed soon.


Oxford zero emission zone

Zero emission zone from 2020
Vehicles affected All vehicles that don't run on electric power

Oxford has had a low emission zone in place since 2014 but this has so far only affected buses. It's planning on toughening its approach considerably and matching London in making the centre a zero emission zone where only electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles can drive. This is likely to include plug-in hybrid cars - which have a large battery in addition to a petrol or diesel engine - as long as they are only running on electric power within the zone. Taxis, vans, buses and private cars will be targeted initially, followed by lorries in 2035, when the technology for electric lorries is anticipated to be commonplace.

From 2020, it's proposed that the zone will cover a small zone in the centre of Oxford, around Cornmarket Street, which is already pedestrianised for much of the day. It would then expand further south in 2025, before encompassing the majority of the city centre in 2030. The station will be just outside the boundary in the West, and it will continue up to Magdalen College in the East.

Reading clean air zone

Clean air zone under consideration
Vehicles affected unknown

Reading Borough Council is planning to consult residents over the introduction of a clean air zone to improve air quality, even though nitrogen oxide levels are expected to comply with legal limits by 2020.

The type of vehicles and cost are still under consideration, as is the scope of the zone: officials are examining a wide area, as council documents speak of "tackling higher polluting vehicles travelling through the Reading borough".


Sheffield clean air zone

Clean air zone planned for 2020 / 2021
Vehicles affected Lorries, buses, taxis and vans that don't meet minimum emission standards Clean air zone charge Proposals suggest £10 per day for affected vans and taxis; £50 for lorries and buses

Sheffield City Council has announced proposals for a clean air zone on, and within, the inner ring-road, which would affect most vehicles apart from private cars.

Taxis and vans that don't meet the minimum emission standards below will be subject to a £10 daily charge under the plans. Drivers of older lorries, buses and coaches will have to pay £50 per day. The council will pubish a consultation on the plans in 2019 and will aim to have the zone in place to meet air quality targets by January 2021.

In addition, the council has said that it is considering include introducing anti-idling zones which would require drivers to switch off their engines when parked; retrofitting buses with cleaner engine technology; and potentially a small-scale scrappage scheme for low-income drivers.

High air pollution averages 51µg/m3 in some areas and the council has quoted NHS studies that suggest up to 500 people die early each year in Sheffield because of conditions linked to air pollution.


Slough clean air zone

Clean air zone proposal is being examined
Vehicles affected Taxis, buses, coaches, lorries and vans

Slough council has ruled out clean air zone charges for cars, but is considering charges for other types of vehicles.

The proposals, set out in its low emission strategy, published in August 2018, are still at an early stage, with details of the areas under review, and the vehicles that could be affected, still undecided.


Southampton clean air zone

Clean air zone planned for 2019
Vehicles affected Lorries, buses, coaches and taxis failing to meet minimum emission standards
Low emission charge £12.50 per day for non-compliant taxis; £100 for lorries and buses

Southampton has announced a consultation into its clean air zone plans, which include a £100-per-day charge for lorries, buses and coaches that fail to meet minimum emission requirements. Local businesses are expected to challenge the proposals, which would quickly add up for anyone operating an older vehicle.

Diesel taxi drivers will also be targeted as part of Southampton's plans: Owners of vehicles that fail to meet the Euro 6 standard will be liable for a £12.50 daily charge.


Warrington clean air zone

Clean air zone proposal being examined
Vehicles affected unknown

Warrington estimates that there were 95 premature deaths in 2013, due to pollution from tiny exhaust particles alone. Even though pollution is predicted to be within EU legal limits this year, the borough council is still considering introducing a clean air zone.

The council is looking into the viability and effectiveness of a zone and says that the location and types of vehicle affected will form part of this. The study is part of the council's latest local transport plan, which is expected to be announced in a consultation document this year.


Clean air zones: exempt vehicles

Most clean air zones are expected to exclude or charge vehicles that fail to meet the emission standards below. However, there are likely to be exceptions, particularly for the zero emission zones being planned by London and Oxford.

Vehicle typeMin. emission standard to be exempt
MotorbikesEuro 3 (all models registered since Jul 2007)
Cars & small vansPetrol Euro 4 (Jan 2006)
Diesel Euro 6 (Sep 2015)
Vans & minibusesPetrol Euro 4 (Jan 2007)
Diesel Euro 6 (Sep 2016)
Lorries Euro VI (Jan 2014)
Coaches and busesEuro VI (Jan 2014)
Historic vehicleMore than 40 years old

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