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Clean Air Zones 2023

7 min to readESG
Several local authorities are taking steps to bring transport-related emissions back under control - and rules differ across the UK. Here's what you need to know.
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The UK is on a path to zero-emission transport, but it has some challenges to address in the meantime. There are nine million (29%) more vehicles on our roads than there were 20 years ago and, coupled with the increase in diesel cars and vans during that period, they produce more than a quarter of the country’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions - a major cause of lung and heart disease. The highest concentrations are often found in busy urban areas.

This hasn’t escaped the government’s attention. The UK committed to legally binding pollution limits in 2010, but 80 local authorities (including six in Scotland and Wales) had at least one road with excess NO2 emissions five years later. In 2017, the 29 councils identified as unlikely to be compliant by 2021 were instructed to develop plans to bring pollution back under control. Following a High Court ruling that the government still wasn’t doing enough, a further 33 authorities were given the same instructions in 2018.

Each of those authorities had unique road traffic conditions to address, and the result is rules that differ across the country. Several identified a need to take direct action influencing the way vehicles use their most polluted roads and – having been delayed by the pandemic – these clean air zones (CAZs) are now going live. Whether you’re driving for work, visiting a city or live there, it’s important to understand how those changes could affect your travel plans.

What is a 'clean air zone'?

In short, it’s an area where local authorities are taking direct action to reduce NO2 emissions. Most CAZs are ‘non-charging’, focused on measures such as improving public transport, changing road layouts and introducing cycle lanes to alleviate congestion. However, there is also a handful of ‘charging CAZs’, which include fees to bring specific vehicles into the zone. These are schemes drivers need to be aware of.

Which vehicles will be charged for entering a clean air zone?

Charging CAZs are designed to discourage drivers from using older and more polluting vehicles. There is a national framework for these charges, based on vehicles’ compliance with the progressively stricter ‘Euro’ emissions standards, and specifically the point at which NO2 limits were aligned.

This tends to allow much older petrol vehicles into the zone without being charged, as they have lower NO2 emissions and have faced tighter legal limits. Fees typically apply to:

Battery-electric vehicles are exempt, but charges may apply to plug-in hybrids if they have a combustion engine that doesn’t meet the standards set out above. National exemptions also apply to vehicles which are adapted for disabled occupants, used by the military or for agriculture, or if they are historic.

Local authorities can also be selective about which vehicles they want to discourage from entering the zone. The framework sets out four types of charging CAZ, as follows:

Which towns and cities have a clean air zone?

There are 12 CAZs live in the UK, located between the south coast and Scotland, while London has three separate schemes in operation the national framework. Unless otherwise noted, Euro 4 petrol, Euro 6 diesel and electric vehicles are exempt.

Aberdeen (Class D)

The Aberdeen Low Emission Zone went live in May 2022, spanning an area north and west of the city’s train station. Fees will apply 24 hours a day from 1 June 2024, including local residents and businesses, and will double for repeat offenders within a 90-day period. Fees: £60 (halved if paid within 14 days)

More information: Aberdeen Low Emission Zone

Bath (Class C)

Bath’s Clean Air Zone covers most of the city centre. Drivers have 28 days to pay any fees to avoid an additional £120 penalty charge, and the council offers discounts for privately-owned vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (such as motorhomes or horse transporters). Fees: £9 (taxis and PHVs, LCVs, private HGVs), £100 (HGVs, buses, coaches)

More information: Bath Clean Air Zone

Birmingham (Class D)

Introduced in June 2021, Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone affects the area within the A4540 Middleway and operates 24 hours a day. Drivers have six days to pay any fees to avoid a £120 penalty charge, while residents’ exemptions expire in June 2023. Fees: £8 (cars, LCVs, taxis and PHVs), £50 (HGVs, buses and coaches)

More information: Brum Breathes

Bradford (Class C)

The Bradford CAZ covers the area within the outer ring road (including the road itself) and the Aire Valley corridor. Residents can get single-vehicle exemptions for privately-owned HGVs (such as motorhomes) if they were purchased before 26 September 2022. Fees: £7 (taxis and PHVs), £9 (LCVs), £50 (HGVs, buses and coaches)

More info: Breathe Better Bradford

Bristol (Class D)

The Bristol Clean Air Zone went live in November 2022. It’s noteworthy for including not only the area west of Temple Meads station, but part of the Portway – a busy route in and out of the city centre – and also applying to residents. Fees: £9 (cars, LCVs, taxis and PHVs), £100 (HGVs, buses and coaches)

More info: Clean Air for Bristol

Dundee (Class D)

Most of the area within the A991 Inner Ring Road (excluding car parks) is included within Dundee’s Low Emission Zone. Launched in May 2022 with a two-year grace period, fees apply 24 hours a day and are doubled for repeat breaches within 90 days – including residents. Fees: £60 (halved if paid within 14 days)

More info: Dundee Low Emission Zone Scheme

Edinburgh (Class D)

Edinburgh introduced its Low Emission Zone in May 2022, spanning from Queen Street and Melville Drive in the north and south, Tollcross in the west and Canongate in the east. Following a two-year grace period, fees will apply 24 hours a day and be doubled for repeated breaches. Fees: £60 (halved if paid within 14 days)

More info: Edinburgh Low Emission Zone

Glasgow (Class D)

The Glasgow Low Emission Zone will begin charging vehicles on 1 June 2023, but with a 12-month grace period for residents and local businesses. It’s bordered by the M8 in the north and west, River Clyde in the south and Saltmarket and High Street in the west and operates 24 hours a day. Penalties are doubled for repeat breaches within a 90-day period. Fees: £60 (halved if paid within 14 days)

More info: Glasgow Low Emission Zone


There are three zones in place across the Greater London area, each of which are enforced separately, so non-compliant vehicles can be charged more than once.

More info:

Oxford (Class D)

Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone pilot launched within a small area at the centre of the city in February 2022. A £10 charge applies between 7am to 7pm, with discounts for cleaner vehicles and exemptions for residents and local businesses, and drivers are liable for a £60 penalty if they do not pay within 28 days.
Fees: £0 (zero-emission vehicles), £2 (two/three wheelers, vehicles emitting less than 75g/km CO2), £4 (Euro 4 petrol/Euro 6 diesel vehicles), £10 (all other vehicles)

More info: Oxford Zero Emission Zone

Newcastle (Class C)

The Tyneside CAZ spans most of Newcastle city centre as well as the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh Bridges to Gateshead. LCV operators have until July 2023 to upgrade their vehicles to meet Euro 4/6 requirements, while taxis and PHVs can apply for discounted rates if they are regularly entering the zone. Fees: £12.50 (taxis, PHVs, LCVs), £50 (HGVs, buses and coaches)

More info: Breathe Clean Air

Portsmouth (Class B)

The Portsmouth CAZ launched in November 2021, covering most of the city centre south of the M275 motorway. Although cars and vans are exempt, fees apply to some heavier motorhomes. Drivers have a six-day payment window, or a £120 penalty applies. Fees: £10 (taxis and PHVs), £50 (HGVs, buses and coaches)

More info: Cleaner Air Portsmouth

Sheffield (Class C)

Sheffield introduced its Clean Air Zone in February 2023, but with temporary exemption until 5 June for local businesses. The zone affects the area within the A61 and part of the Sheffield Parkway, and drivers have six days to pay the fee or a penalty charge applies. Discounted rates are available for residents with large campervans or motorhomes. Fees: £10 (taxis, PHVs, LCVs and privately owned HGVs), £60 (HGVs, buses and coaches)

More info: Sheffield Clean Air Zone

Find out more

You can view the BVRLA's interactive Clean Air Zone map here:

Published at 16 May 2023
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16 May 2023
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