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Low Emissions Zones Across the UK

Low Emissions Zones Across the UK

According to Public Health England, air pollution is the largest environmental threat to health in the UK, and long-term exposure to air pollution is responsible for around 30,000 deaths per year. In direct response to this, many local councils across the UK have introduced clean air zones - to improve the air quality inside their cities. 

These zones, termed CAZ (clean air zones) or LEZ (low emissions zones), have restrictions on what vehicles can drive freely through them, charging non-compliant vehicles varying amounts, ranging from £2 to £12.50 per day. 

What is a Low Emissions Zone? 

To alleviate the air pollution problem in the UK’s major cities, many low emissions zones have been created. The aim of these zones is to reduce the number of high-emissions cars entering a city, by making drivers pay a daily fee. 

As with London’s congestion charge, the zones often began as a small area in the very heart of the city, which slowly expanded over the years, allowing residents and visitors to adapt to the new restrictions.  

As it would not be possible to entirely ban cars that do not meet the zones’ criteria, a fee is usually charged per day of travel. For example, to drive into London’s ULEZ with a non-compliant car will cost £12.50 per day. 

What Cars Have to Pay in Low Emission Zones? 

The restriction criteria in all of the UK’s zones are based on the Euro emissions standards. These were initially devised by the EU to improve the standard to which cars are manufactured, the Euro status of a car is determined by how polluting it is. 

Any car sold in the EU must meet the current Euro standard, the most important ones when discussing ULEZ are Euro 4 for petrol cars (introduced in 2006) and Euro 6 for diesel-engined cars (introduced in 2015). 

London’s ULEZ 

The capital’s low emissions zone is by far the biggest and most far-reaching, affecting around 9 million residents and even more visitors every day, in August 2023 it expanded to include every London borough.  

To enter the ULEZ zone without paying, your vehicle must meet Euro 6 standards for Diesels, and Euro 4 for Petrol cars. As a general rule, if your petrol car was built after 2006, or your diesel car was built after 2015, you should be good to go. EVs and almost all hybrids are exempt. 

To check for sure, use Transport for London’s online tool. 

How much is the London ULEZ charge? 

If your car doesn’t meet the above criteria, you’ll need to pay the daily charge. It is £12.50 per day for cars and other passenger vehicles. For HGVs and buses, it's £100 per day.  

The ULEZ charge period resets at midnight, so if you enter at 23:30 and leave in the early hours, you’ll need to pay twice.  

How to pay the London ULEZ charge? 

The TFL website allows you to enter your car registration number and date of travel for pre or post-payment. Payment can be made up to 3 days after entering the zone.  

Alternatively, you can sign your car up for automatic billing, this is recommended if you aren't sure if you'll enter a zone on your journey, as you will get billed automatically instead of receiving a fine. 

Birmingham’s CAZ 

Introduced in 2021, the Clean Air Zone operates inside Birmingham's famous A4540 Middleway ring road. Its charging criteria are the same as the ULEZ - your vehicle must meet Euro 6 standards (2015+) for Diesels, and Euro 4 (2006+) for Petrol cars.  

To be 100% sure before you drive into Birmingham, use the gov.uk online checking tool before you travel.  

How much is the Birmingham CAZ charge? 

The Birmingham CAZ costs £9 for non-compliant petrol and diesel cars. This is operated 24/7 on every day of the year. Larger vehicles such as buses and HGVs pay £50. 

Just as the ULEZ, the charging period runs from midnight to midnight, meaning you’ll have to pay £18 if your journey extends past midnight. 

How to pay the Birmingham CAZ charge? 

The general gov.uk clean air zone portal is the best tool for checking and paying CAZ charges. It allows you to pay up to 6 days before and after the journey.  

To check if your car will be charged, and pay the Birmingham CAZ fee, use the gov.uk website. 

Bath’s CAZ 

The historical city of Bath has operated a clean air zone since 2021. It only affects commercial vehicles though, such as vans, taxis and HGVs. Normal passenger cars, diesel or petrol, are not charged.  

A map of the Bath CAZ can be viewed on the council website here. 

Portsmouth’s CAZ 

Quite a large portion of Portsmouth’s city centre is covered by the Clean Air Zone, which was introduced in November 2021. It is not charged to passenger vehicles, but only to taxis and HGVs. 

Taxis are charged £10 per day and HGVs £50. To view the full map check the council website. 

Bradford’s CAZ 

Bradford, like Bath and Portsmouth, does not charge private passenger vehicles for entering its CAZ.  

Taxis are required to pay £7 and HGVs and buses £50 per day. To check where the CAZ in Bradford extends, check out the interactive map on the Bradford Council website. 

Bristol’s CAZ 

Bristol has a relatively small Clean Air Zone. However, it does charge all vehicles that don’t meet the criteria. 

As with most other zones that charge passenger cars, diesel-engine cars need to meet Euro 6, and Petrol Euro 4.  

How much is the Bristol CAZ fee? 

For passenger cars, it’s £9 per day, whilst HGVs and buses pay £100. To check if your vehicle will be chargeable, and to pay the fee, use the government website. 

Sheffield’s CAZ 

Launched in February 2023, the clean air zone spans a fairly sizable chunk of Sheffield city centre. Its rules are the same as most, charging cars Petrol and Diesel cars from post-2006 and post-2016 respectively.  

Sheffield.gov has some useful advice on how to avoid getting fined, including an online checker and interactive map. From here you can input a postcode to see if your journey will require CAZ approval.  

How much is the fee for Sheffield’s CAZ? 

Sheffield's clean air zone is free for passenger cars currently, but plans have been made to introduce a fee based on the same requirements as other CAZ and ULEZ zones shortly.  

HGV and commercial vehicles currently need to pay £10 per day, though. 

Newcastle and Gateshead 

The Tyneside CAZ covers a fairly small area in the centre of Newcastle, and as with many of the other CAZ areas around the country, it is not yet charging passenger cars to enter it.  

Commercial vehicles, on the other hand, are required to pay £12.50 per day, the highest charge outside of London for such car types. 

Other CAZ zones 

So we’ve rounded up all of the current clean air and ultra-low emission zones in the country, but make sure to keep up to date with your local council’s news, as there are many more planned, including: 

  • Manchester 
  • Edinburgh 
  • Dundee 
  • Aberdeen 
  • Liverpool 
  • Derby 

And quite a few more! 

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