Clean Air Zones (CAZ) in the UK – the 2023 guide
There’s a growing number of emission zones around the UK that charge car and van drivers in highly polluting vehicles. Clean Air Zones (CAZ) and Low Emission Zones (LEZ) in the UK largely follow the same standard frameworks, but it’s important to know the specific rules that apply to each city. Most importantly, you need to know how to check that your vehicle is compliant if you want to avoid paying the daily charges when driving in these vicinities.
From London’s ULEZ and Birmingham’s CAZ, to the four LEZ in Scotland, and more, in this guide we cover the rules and charges associated with all the Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones in the UK. Read on to learn more.
What is a Clean Air Zone / CAZ?
Clean Air Zones are defined geographical areas where certain types of vehicles are required to comply with emissions standards, or pay a fine. In the UK, there are currently four classes of CAZ, ranging from only high-pollution, commercial vehicles, to all passenger vehicles.
|A||Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles|
|B||Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)|
|C||Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans, minibuses|
|D||Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans, minibuses, cars, the local authority has the option to include motorcycles|
Any town or city running a CAZ has the same compliance standards in place:
|Vehicle type||CAZ minimum standard|
|Vans, minibuses, taxis, private hire vehicles, cars||Euro 4 (petrol engine) and Euro 6 (diesel engine)|
|Buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles||Euro V1|
|Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)||Automatically compliant|
Some CAZ keep certain days of the year as exemptions (for example, public holidays), whereas others are permanent. There’s a lot of variation from city to city when it comes to specific terms and conditions of the CAZ, but largely they all subscribe to one of the above-mentioned ‘classes’ and share compliance criteria.
How do I know if my car is CAZ-compliant?
Since every Clean Air Zone in the UK, including Scotland’s Low Emission Zones, uses the same emissions standards criteria as London’s ULEZ, you can use our ULEZ Checker to make sure your car is compliant.
Simply enter your reg in our ULEZ Checker to see whether you will have to pay a fine in any of the UK’s current or upcoming CAZ.
Where am I charged to drive a non-compliant car?
Currently, the only CAZ and Low Emission Zones (LEZ) that charge drivers of non-compliant, private passenger cars a daily fee or penalty charge are Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London.
Most other zones do charge non-compliant vans, taxis, and larger vehicles. To learn about charges to vans in Clean Air Zones around the UK, read our guide to driving vans in London’s ULEZ. For further details, read on.
Where are there active Clean Air Zones in the UK?
There are active CAZ and Low Emission Zones (LEZ) around the UK, with more under consultation. The locations of Clean Air Zones in the UK tend to be large and well-connected cities.
|Aberdeen||Scottish LEZ (similar to CAZ Class D)||Penalty of £60||24/7|
|Bath||Class C CAZ (vans +)||£9 for small vehicles; £100 for large||24/7|
|Birmingham||Class D (cars +)||£8 for small vehicles; £50 for large||24/7|
|Bristol||Class D (cars +)||£9 for small vehicles; £100 for large||24/7|
|Bradford||Class C (vans +)||£7 for taxis; £9 for small vehicles; £50 for large||24/7|
|Dundee||Scottish LEZ (similar to CAZ Class D)||Penalty of £60||24/7|
|Edinburgh||Scottish LEZ (similar to CAZ Class D)||Penalty of £60||24/7|
|Glasgow||Scottish LEZ (similar to CAZ Class D)||Penalty of £60||24/7|
|London (ULEZ)||Class D (motorcycles/mopeds +)||£12.50 for small vehicles. Large vehicles pay a LEZ charge instead.||Every day except Christmas|
|Oxford (ZEZ)||Class D (motorcycles/mopeds +)||£2 for ultra low emission vehicles; £4 for low emission vehicles; and £10 for non-compliant vehicles||7am-7pm daily|
|Newcastle & Gateshead||Class C (vans +)||£12.50 for small vehicles; £50 for large||24/7|
|Portsmouth||Class B||£10 for taxis; £50 for large vehicles||24/7|
|Sheffield||Class C (vans +)||£10 for small vehicles; £50 for large||24/7|
Where are more CAZ going to start?
Caerphilly has been considering a central CAZ, with a particular focus on restricting HGVs. More information is expected this year.
There has been much debate as to whether Greater Manchester should instigate a Class C CAZ. So far, the ten councils across Manchester have largely been opposed to a CAZ charging non-compliant drivers, in favour instead of investing the same funds to retrofit the non-compliant vehicles. Read more on Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.
What cities have other schemes to tackle emissions?
- Basildon opposed a CAZ and instead invested in lower speed limits, some new cycling routes, and some EV charging stations. Read more on Essex Air.
- Cambridge has announced its own plans, subjecting all cars to a daily charge for driving within the city during daytime hours. Read more in our guide to the Cambridge Sustainable Travel Zone.
- Cardiff has opposed a CAZ, but rather is considering bringing in a congestion charge for all non-residents driving into the city, by 2024.
- Canterbury isn’t expected to start a CAZ, but has been identifying areas of the city that have encouraged vehicles to idle, such as level crossings and parking bays. They are working on reducing this, as well as supporting taxis to adopt lower-emission vehicles.
- Coventry has so far been opposed to instigating a CAZ. They were awarded £24.5 million in funding to reduce pollution by other means.
- Derby has also rejected a CAZ in favour of traffic management in the city centre and on routes that lead in and out of the city.
- Exeter city council is also against adopting a CAZ in the first instance. They have an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) where they have to focus on reducing pollution levels. They have plans in place to increase cycling and public transport levels in and around this area.
- Leeds received nearly £7 million in government funding to introduce a CAZ, and were due to start one in early 2020. However, they found that most of the buses and HGVs that drive through the centre of the city were already compliant. In fact, their taxi fleets were also largely compliant. They had already installed a camera system to enable a CAZ.
- Leicester was set to implement a CAZ, however the air quality was found to have improved enough in 2020 to meet all targets.
- Liverpool, like Manchester, has opposed a CAZ due to the shortage and cost of new and used compliant vehicles. In the first instance, Liverpool City Council instead want to focus on improving public transport networks and finding other ways to improve air quality. Read more on Let’s Clear the Air Liverpool.
- Nottingham City Council cancelled plans for a CAZ when modelling revealed it was not necessary in order to reduce air pollution. Instead, they have used funding to retrofit buses, increase the number of zero-emission taxis, and convert public vehicles such as waste disposal lorries.
- Sefton has outlined a business case to the government for a local CAZ aimed at reducing the emissions from HGVs in the area. More can be found on Your Sefton Your Say.
- St Albans has a CAZ under consideration.
- Warrington has a CAZ under consideration.
- Wokingham has a LEZ under consideration, as part of the council’s Air Quality Action Plan.
Are there exemptions to CAZ and LEZ charges?
Certain vehicle categories have been made nationally exempt by the government as part of any CAZ in the UK, and can drive into Clean Air Zones or Low Emission Zones without being charged:
|Disabled tax class or disabled passenger tax class|
|Some agricultural vehicles|
|Registered historic vehicles|
|Ultra-low emission vehicles|
|Vehicles retrofitted under the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS)|
Local councils also have the authority to set up exemptions, for example Newcastle and Sheffield both have specific, temporary exemptions for certain commercial vehicles registered to businesses within the zones.
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