The UK’s first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) outside of London has launched this morning (15 March) in Bath, charging vans and other commercial vehicles but not private cars.
As of midnight, non-compliant vehicles are now being charged £9 or £100 a day to drive in the centre of Bath.
The ‘Class C’ zone was due to start in November but as with other schemes was delayed due to Covid-19.
The scheme is designed to tackle Bath’s air pollution problem; several areas in the city regularly exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution – even during lockdown – and the issue is chiefly caused by vehicle emissions.
Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “This a landmark day for the city. We’ve put up with unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide for too long. This is unfair on residents, particularly vulnerable older people and children. We want to reduce NO2 pollution in Bath to within legal limits by the end of 2021 at the latest, and a charging clean air zone is the only way we can achieve this.”
The Bath scheme is run in a similar way to the existing Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in London and will be shortly joined by other CAZs in England, including Birmingham’s scheme, which was delayed to June 2021 because of concerns of the impact of the pandemic.
The daily charges will apply seven days a week, midnight to midnight, all year round for chargeable vehicles with a pre-Euro 6 diesel or pre-Euro 4 petrol engine. All roads leading into the zone have automatic number plate recognition cameras installed and motorists with non-compliant vehicles must declare and pay for their journey at the gov.uk site or a penalty charge notice will be issued.
Any revenue from the zone, discounting operating costs, will be reinvested in sustainable transport for the area. Plans being explored by the city council include developing liveable neighbourhoods, supporting businesses to use e-cargo bike deliveries, improving the public transport and encouraging more active travel.
Funding to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones is available for residents and businesses in Bath including coach companies and taxi drivers; in total, the Government is supplying £9.4m in funding and already more than 500 businesses have applied.
The Bath scheme has been welcomed by environmental law firm ClientEarth, which has previously won three cases against the UK Government over air pollution and is a staunch advocate of CAZs as an effective way to address this.
Andrea Lee, clean air campaigner at ClientEarth, said: “Across the UK, illegal and harmful levels of air pollution have been putting people in serious danger for too long. With Bath’s new Clean Air Zone, and others soon to follow, we are finally seeing a concrete step that will protect people’s health in a tangible way.”