What do Clean Air Zones mean for businesses moving forward?

Oxford streetOxford is on course to roll out plans to become the first zero emissions city in the world by implementing clean air zones in the city centre. They aim to ban all petrol and diesel cars from the city centre area by 2020. This suggests the UK are serious about rolling out their plans to ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in an attempt to clean up the UK’s air quality. Oxford isn’t the only city looking to introduce clear air zones either. The government has revealed five UK cities that plan to have a clean air zone by 2020, including Birmingham, Southampton and Leeds.

Motorparks Grange, retailers of prestige vehicles such as used Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover, discuss the future of Clean Air Zones across the UK, and what they mean for businesses in the future:

What are Clean Air Zones?

According to the government, 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”.

By implementing these ‘clean zones’ across some of the most polluted regions in the UK, access restrictions aim to encourage cleaner vehicles on the roads. High polluting vehicles such as busses, HGVs and taxis will be faced with a charge for entering these zones – however, private cars will not be affected by these charges yet. Fully electric vehicles and vehicles which meet the definition of an ultra-low emission vehicles will be exempt from paying entering charges. However, other vehicles are separated into different classes, and charges will depend on which class they fall into. It is expected that the restrictions will be rolled out across all vehicles that emit harmful emission in the future. However, the Government want to point out that it is not their aim to penalise drivers who might have been encouraged to buy diesel cars by previous Governments.

Where are Clean Air Zones located?

Areas across the UK that have the poorest air quality are amongst the first regions which will be expected to implement clean zones – these areas include Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. Each city is expected to introduce the zones and penalties by 2020, in an attempt to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide back down to the legal limit. The zones will most likely be introduced in the city centres, and restrictions can involve entry charges, time-of-day restrictions and/or blanket vehicle bans.

Other cities are interested in tackling their air pollution too, with the likes of Manchester currently investigating the feasibility of introducing a Clean Air Zone onto their roads. The Sunday Times suggests that over 35 urban areas could be included in this plan, whereby both private and public vehicles could be banned on the roads during peak traffic hours in city centres. In some of the most polluted cities, penalty charges, or ‘toxin taxes’ could be as high as £20 a day.

Who will be charged?

When zones are first implemented, fixed charges will not be applied to all zones – charges will in fact be decided by local councils and authorities, meaning they may differ per region. Penalties are not compulsory for city Clean Air Zones either. However, councils which do implement charges have the right to charge additional penalty fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges.

At first, only vehicles which contribute the most air pollution will be charged, such as buses, taxis and HGVs which contribute the most air pollution. Charges have not been finalised yet, but they will be issued depending on which class, or category, your vehicles falls under. There are four classes, A, B, C and D and are identified on vehicle type depending on your emissions and euro standard.

To find out where your vehicle will lie, the government has released a report outlining the Clean Air Zone framework.

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