30 July 2020
A number of Clean Air Zones were intended to be launched during 2020 and beyond, but the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of them to be postponed or the type of scheme to be redesigned.
We have produced a run-down of what stage the plans are in currently for each of the major schemes that were scheduled.
Manchester: delayed until 2022
The Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester had been delayed until 2022 at the earliest, having been planned to launch in Summer 2021, but the consultation on the scheme, scheduled for this summer, had been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19 has changed traffic volumes and pollution levels in the city, which in turn has raised questions about the relevance of the modelling underpinning the orginal plan.
Further analysis and modelling of proposed daily charges for non-compliant vehicles has suggested that charges should be adjusted to more effectively encourage affected businesses to upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
Following this work, the proposed daily charge for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), buses and coaches has been reduced from £100 to £60 per day, as analysis showed this would deliver very similar upgrade responses and benefits.
The proposed daily charge for vans and minibuses has changed from £7.50 to £10 per day. Non-compliant vans and minibuses would be exempt from Clean Air Zone daily charges until 2023 to give vehicle owners more time to upgrade.
Councillor Andrew Western, Greater Manchester Green City-region Lead, said: "We know that people want to see further improvements to cleaning up our air, and we are committed to doing this as quickly as we can while supporting our businesses, to make sure they can upgrade to cleaner vehicles ahead of the introduction of the proposed Clean Air Zone.”
Leeds: postponed indefinitely
The Clean Air Zone in Leeds, which was to have started in January 2020 before being postponed, has now been postponed indefinitely.
The delay at the start of the year came about because of issues implementing the Government database computer, but in March, leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake confirmed there would be a further pause, saying: “We have also asked the government for permission to delay the implementation of the Clean Air Charging Zone until further notice and we have suspended repayments for taxi and private hire owners who have received an interest-free loan. We are still accepting and continuing to pay grant payments for those vehicle owners switching to cleaner vehicles.”
The measures would have meant drivers of non-environmentally friendly HGVs, buses, taxis and private hire vehicles will face a daily charge ranging from £12.50 to £50 for using certain roads in and around Leeds city centre. However, there has been no date set for the introduction of the scheme.
Bristol: a new plan
Bristol City Council says it is working on an alternative to its current plans for a diesel ban and Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the city.
In March, the council was formally given the go ahead from the Government to implement their scheme, including initial funding of £12 million. It was also asked to submit further evidence on additional measures, and a full business case by September 2020 so the scheme could be implemented by March 2021, as has always been planned.
However, the onset of the pandemic saw its advanced plans shelved and a thorough rethink of the scheme started.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees explained: “We understand the moral, environmental and legal imperative to achieve clean air compliance, and remain committed to delivering clean air for the city. However, this is not an appropriate time to make life more difficult for businesses or to engage with the business community and people of Bristol on how we develop appropriate mitigations to reduce the impacts a Clean Air Zone may have for them.”
The scheme was supposed to be in place by April 2021, but the new plans have yet to be unveiled. The council has since said that its local air pollution will be at legal levels by the end of 2022, as required, but has yet to reveal its new plan.
London: scope widening
Plans for the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London have been accelerated. The Covid-19 pandemic led to the ULEZ charges being temporarily paused, but its reintroduction was a requirement of the recent Transport for London economic bailout.
And in October 2021, an expansion to the ULEZ will include all areas of inner London bounded by the North/South Circular, alongside the introduction of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) that covers Greater London within the M25.
In accordance with the Government funding agreement, TfL has also brought forward proposals to temporarily widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge.
From 22 June the Congestion Charge temporarily increased to £15, operating 7am-10pm, seven days a week.
These temporary changes were intended to reduce traffic in central London and enable more journeys to be made safely by foot or by bike while keeping the bus network reliable for those making essential journeys.
The Mayor also extended Congestion Charge reimbursement schemes to support those who could be most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and NHS staff.
Birmingham: delayed until the start of 2021
In Birmingham, the council has asked the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit to delay the launch of the zone, which was due to come into effect before the end of Summer 2020.
The zone covers all the roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road. However in response to the impact of Covid-19, the launch date has been postponed until at least the start of 2021. The exact launch date is expected to be announced in Autumn 2020.
Oxford: now planned for Summer 2021
Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) will not launch in December 2020 as planned. Due to Covid-19, the council said they would not be able to devote the time to its planning and implementation.
The ZEZ, which in the stages of its final public consultation at the start of the pandemic, covers a small area of the city centre and charges non-compliant vehicles (ie any non-zero emission vehicle) £10 to enter. The council's plan to resume the consultation in late 2020, and a view to implement the scheme in the Summer of 2021.
Portsmouth: under consultation
Portsmouth City Council has launched a consultation, citing a Government requirement of the introduction of a charging Clean Air Zone in the city by the end of 2021 to address air quality problems.
The council claims it is being required by the Government to implement a zone that will charge older, more polluting HGV's, taxis and public hire vehicles, buses and coaches. However, it wants to avoid this post-Covid-19, fearing it will have a significant economic impact on small businesses.
Cllr Dave Ashmore, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: "The government-funded Clean Air Zone is not our preferred solution to the air pollution problem. However, we are required to do this so we are making sure we do this in the best possible way by giving everybody the opportunity to have their say on how it will operate and those impacted can tell us their views on how funding support can be shared fairly.”
There are a number of other, non-charging, clean air zone schemes in the planning stage including:
- St Albans
Canterbury, Cardiff, Exeter and Nottingham councils state they will not be implementing a CAZ.