The Somerset city of Bath has today implemented the UK’s first clean air zone (CAZ) as part of a drive to reduce CO2 emissions and improve air quality in line with government demands.
It will be followed later this year by similar measures in Birmingham (June), Oxford (August) and Bristol (October), and many more cities, including Cambridge and Portsmouth, are considering similar initiatives. In addition, London will expand its ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) outwards to the North Circular and South Circular roads in October.
Spanning the city centre, including Kingsmead, Bathwick and Walcot, Bath’s zone operates in a similar way to London’s ULEZ: while zero-emissions vehicles may travel within the zone free of charge, polluting vehicles incur a fee.
The CAZ is a Class C zone, which means that only HGVs, buses, coaches and taxis are eligible to be charged. For now, regular passenger cars are exempt.
Petrol vehicles that don’t conform to Euro 4 emissions standards or were registered before January 2006 must pay to enter. More stringent regulations apply for diesels, which must be compliant with Euro 6 standards or have been registered after September 2015 to avoid a charge.
Drivers of HGVs, coaches and buses that don’t meet these requirements will have to pay £100 to drive in and around Bath’s city centre. This is substantially reduced for non-compliant taxis, private hire vehicles, LGVs, minibuses, vans and pick-up trucks, drivers of which must pay £9 per day.
Exceptions and discounts are offered, however, for hard-to-replace or special vehicles, including tractors, gritters and snowploughs, as well as certain steam-powered vehicles, and recovery and emergency service vehicles. Vehicles operating under a disabled passenger tax class are also exempt.
The zone, first proposed in 2018, will cost approximately £23 million to create and maintain. It’s marked by 140 signs, which were installed in December last year, and policed by up to 70 autonomic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras that detect vehicles as they enter the zone and check their numbers against a database, identifying which are required to pay a charge.
Once issued, drivers must pay their fee within seven days or they will be fined £120 in addition to the original charge. If this is paid within 14 days, the fine will be reduced to £60, but if it’s not paid within 28 days, it will be increased to £180.
Drivers who continually refuse to pay fines will eventually have their vehicles clamped and, in extreme cases, destroyed.