Bath has become the first city outside London to launch a charging clean air zone (CAZ) today (March 15) in order to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.
From midnight the CAZ will be in operation in the city centre 24/7, with all pre-euro 6/VI diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol vehicles, except cars and motorbikes, having to pay to enter it.
Non-compliant vans, taxis and minibuses are charged £9, while non-compliant trucks and lorries, and coaches and buses have to pay £100.
Automatic number plate recognition cameras are installed on all roads leading into the zone. Vehicle number plates will be checked against a DVLA database. Motorists with non-compliant, chargeable vehicles – including those from outside the UK – must declare and pay for their journey at GOV.UK or they will receive a penalty charge notice.
The council secured £9.4 million of funding from Government to help residents and businesses, including coach companies and taxi drivers, to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones.
It has set up a scheme to help owners upgrade their vehicles and already more than 500 businesses have applied.
A further £1.58 million has helped local bus operators to retrofit fleet not already compliant in the zone.
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.
“We know this is difficult time for businesses, but we’ve gone ahead with the zone during the pandemic because this is a pressing public health issue.
"However, we are working with residents and businesses to help them replace polluting vehicles with cleaner ones and there is significant financial and practical help available.”
The council has said that although it is not charging private cars, it is currently looking at ways to improve walking, cycling and public transport to encourage people to choose more sustainable ways of getting around.
Councillor Sarah Warren, joint cabinet member for climate emergency and neighbourhood services, said: “The clean air zone is just the start of a concerted effort to promote more sustainable travel.
"We’re also looking at developing liveable neighbourhoods, supporting businesses to use e-cargo bike deliveries, improving our public transport and encouraging more active travel, such as walking and cycling.
"Any revenue from the zone, over and above the operating costs, must and will be reinvested in sustainable transport for the area.”
Andrea Lee, clean air campaigner at ClientEarth, welcomed the launch of Bath’s CAZ.
“Across the UK, illegal and harmful levels of air pollution have been putting people in serious danger for too long,” she said.
“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.
“It’s important to remember that these schemes are put in place for a reason: to protect people’s health. Toxic air affects virtually every organ in the body. Road transport is the biggest source of illegal pollution in our cities and CAZs are proven to be the most effective way to quickly reduce this pollution.
“Bath and other cities are stepping up to the challenge so it is essential that the UK Government does everything it can to support them and help people and businesses – particularly those on low incomes and small businesses – move to cleaner forms of transport as quickly as possible.”
Birmingham, Bristol and Bradford CAZs to follow
Birmingham will launch its CAZ on June 1 with owners of the most polluting vehicles, including cars, having to pay to drive through an area within the A4540 Middleway (but not the Middleway itself).
Bristol recently submitted its plans for a charging CAZ this October to central Government, while Bradford has said that it intends to launch a charging CAZ in January 2022.
Oxford is set to introduce a zero emission zone (ZEZ) pilot in August, ahead of introducing a larger zero emission zone covering most of the city centre in 2022 (subject to further public consultation).
The city council's cabinet approved the pilot last week with final sign off resting with Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet, which is due to meet tomorrow (March 16).
The ultra-low emission zone in London will also expand from the city centre to cover all of inner London, up to the North and South circulars this October.
However, Leeds' planned CAZ is not going ahead after a review by Leeds City Council and central Government last year found it was 'no longer required' due to a shift to cleaner vehicles.