What Are the UK’s Clean Air Zones?

The UK government introduced the Clean Air Zones (CAZ) in 2015 as they started to work on projects aimed at improving air quality in cities. All five CAZs were supposed to begin operating last year, 2020. At present, there are approximately six operational Clean Air Zones, with others slated to start towards the end of the month and in 2022. 

Clean Air Zones are areas in the UK where actions are taken to help improve the quality of air. Highly polluting vehicles that move through or enter any of the areas are charged accordingly. The charges depend on the vehicle type and Euro standard. However, there are CAZs that are non-charging, which are intended to improve air quality but do not charge fines. Instead, they implement actions such as traffic flow management, retrofitting vehicles, and traffic rerouting. 

In the Greater London area, there are LEZ (Low Emission Zone) and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone). LEZ is London’s traffic pollution charge program intended to reduce diesel vehicle emissions. It was introduced in 2019. ULEZ, on the other hand, is a designated area in London where vehicles emitting the most pollutants are fined. Mayor Sadiq Khan implemented it in 2019 and recently expanded coverage to a wider area of Inner London, including the North and South Circular roads.

The Clean Air Zones are part of the UK government’s plan to reduce emissions and eventually switch to hybrid cars by 2035. By 2050, the country aims to achieve zero emissions, with the UK population using only electric vehicles.

Clean air zones benefits

Clean Air Zones benefit everyone, but most especially the children and the elderly, particularly those with health problems. Aside from cleaning the polluted air surrounding the cities and town centres, CAZs have other benefits. These are:

  • Clean Air Zones encourage residents to become more aware of the environment. Instead of driving around in their diesel vehicles, residents will switch to public transport. 
  • Clean Air Zones help quicken actions leading to zero (or low) emissions, including the use of electric vehicles.
  • Clean Air Zones can also lessen congestion in busy cities and town centres.

Where are the clean air zones?

Currently, there are six Clean Air Zones, with several others set for implementation in the coming months.

  • Brighton – Brighton’s LEZ (Low Emission Zone) was implemented in 2015. However, it is only applicable to local buses.
  • London – London’s LEZ started in 2008 and it covered the area of Greater London. In 2020, London implemented the first ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) in the UK, covering the same areas that the LEZ covers.
  • Bath – The Clean Air Zone in Bath started in March 2021.
  • Birmingham – The Clean Air Zone in Birmingham was implemented in June 2021.
  • Oxford – Oxford’s Clean Air Zone started just recently, in August 2021.
  • Norwich – Although Norwich has a Clean Air Zone, it only covers local buses.
  • Portsmouth – By November 2021, Portsmouth is expected to open its own CAZ.
  • Manchester – Manchester will implement its CAZ in May next year.

The vehicles covered by a Clean Air Zone include:

  • Coaches
  • Buses
  • Heavy Good Vehicles
  • Taxis
  • Minibuses
  • Cars
  • Private Hire Vehicles
  • Vans
  • Motorcycles

Why are CAZs needed?

As mentioned above, Clean Air Zones are necessary to improve the quality of air in the UK. Toxic air has been a problem all over the country for years, and this is just one of the actions that the government has seriously taken. Additionally, the scheme is a result of the Supreme Court’s orders to find ways to monitor nitrogen dioxide or NO2 levels in the air. Environmental groups have also been urging the government to take action on the problem of toxic air. 

Air quality problems became more pronounced in 2015, when the Dieselgate scandal broke. The diesel emissions scandal involved German car manufacturer Volkswagen, which, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, installed defeat devices in their diesel vehicles so they could cheat on emissions tests. The cheat software hid the real volume of nitrogen oxide (NOx emissions) during lab tests, so they appeared safe and within legal levels. When driven in real-world conditions, though, they emitted NOx levels that far exceeded the EU and World Health Organization limits.

This presented additional problems to authorities as the scam eventually moved through Europe and the UK and now involves several car manufacturers, mostly from Europe. For example, the Mercedes Benz emission scandal broke months after the VW scandal and other manufacturers were soon implicated as well. So, aside from the Clean Air Zone, the UK government has had to strictly implement additional measures to reduce NOx emissions and address these to the affected car manufacturers.

Your role

If you drive through the CAZs regularly and have a vehicle installed with a defeat device, request your manufacturer for a recall so they can fit your car with a safer, upgraded engine. You should also file a compensation claim. So, if your affected vehicle is a Mercedes-Benz, find a team of experts who can help you file a Mercedes diesel claim. These teams are trained and experienced to work on cases like yours. They’ll work with you from the first to the last step of the process.

Work with the compensation claims experts at and your chances of a successful claim will be greater.