October 2017 saw Oxford announce its plans to become the first zero emissions city zone in the world – they plan to enforce a ban on all petrol and diesel cars in the city centre by 2020. This suggests that the UK is seriously committed to plans to prohibit the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by the year 2040 in order to improve air quality. Oxford isn’t alone in this venture; the government has revealed that five cities in the UK also plan to introduce clean air zones by 2020, including Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton.
Motorparks & Grange, retailes of prestige vehicles such as used Aston Martin, Land Rover and Jaguar, discuss the future of Clean Air Zones in the UK, and how drivers will be impacted by the changes:
What is a Clean Air Zone?
According to government definitions, a Clean Air Zone is “an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth”.
The plan implements access restrictions in designated ‘clean zones’ which will encourage cleaner vehicles on the roads. Vehicles such as taxis, busses and HGV’s will face a fee for entering the zones due to them producing higher levels of pollution. Private cars will not be affected by these changes just yet however. Electric vehicles and vehicles meeting the definition of ‘ultra-low emission’ will not have to pay the entering charges. However, vehicles are separated into different classes and will be charged according to the category that they fall into.
Where will the Clean Air Zones be?
The areas that have been chosen by the government to host Clean Air Zones are those with the poorest air quality. The zones are expected to be introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020, in an attempt to reduce nitrogen levels and bring them back down to the legal limit. The zones are likely to be located in city centres, and restrictions will involve entry fees, vehicle bans and time of day restrictions.
Other UK cities, including Manchester, are currently investigating the possibility of introducing Clean Air Zones to their roads. The Sunday Times suggests that over 35 urban areas may be included in the plan, whereby private and public vehicles alike could face a potential road ban in city centres during peak traffic hours.
What will the charges be?
‘Toxin taxes’ could cost up to £20 a day in the most polluted cities. The government has pointed out that they do not wish to punish drivers who bought their diesel cars because of successive governments as this would make drivers feel that they are being punished for incentives encouraged by previous governments.
Who is going to be charged?
To start with, not all zones will have fixed charges. These will be decided by local authorities and councils. Penalties are not compulsory for city Clean Air Zones either. However, councils which do implement fees will have the right to charge additional fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges. Private car owners will not be initially penalized – instead the zones will charge drivers of taxis, busses and HGV’s which currently contribute the most towards air pollution in the UK. Though the charges have not been finalised just yet, they will be issued depending on which class your vehicle falls under. The four classes (A, B, C and D) are identified by vehicle type according to your emissions and euro standard.
To find out your vehicle class, the government has issued a report outlining the Clean Air Zone framework.