The UK’s Clean Air Zones Explained

It was in the year 2015 when the UK government decided to introduce Clean Air Zones (CAZ) as one of their drives for improving air quality. Despite the slight delay due to COVID-19, the first several CAZs started operating in 2020. Things have been moving quite fast this year, though, as more areas have opened their Clean Air Zones.

What is a CAZ?

A Clean Air Zone or CAZ is an identified area in a city, typically a city centre, that charges fees or penalties for vehicles with excessive emissions that drive through the zone. A CAZ is intended to manage and reduce toxic air in towns and cities. Preventing pollutants from entering and moving through the city will help improve the environmental condition of the place while also protecting human health. 

If a vehicle has high emission levels, the owner or driver will have to pay a specified penalty so they can enter. In some cities, highly polluting vehicles will not be able to enter or go through the area or zone. 

Clean Air Zones are in cities or areas where the levels of air pollution are in excess of the WHO and EU regulated limits. They are considered one of the most effective ways of improving the quality of air in the local areas in the UK. According to the World Health Organization, the number of premature deaths every year hovers at the seven million mark. With the Clean Air Zones, the UK government hopes to bring this number down. 

Minimising the number of high-emission vehicles is a good way to reduce the volume of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and the toxic pollutant NOx or nitrogen oxide. 

Benefits of CAZs

Clean Air Zones have the following benefits:

  • Helps the government achieve its zero-emissions goal
  • Encourages the driving population to use electric vehicles
  • Reduce the congested traffic in busy city centres and towns
  • Encourage people to ride public transport

CAZ classes of vehicles

There are four classes of vehicles that are targeted in Clean Air Zones:

  1. Class A targets taxis, coaches, PHVs or private hire vehicles, and buses.
  2. Class B targets taxis, coaches, HGVs or heavy goods vehicles, PHVs, and buses.
  3. Class C targets taxis, coaches, LGVs for light good vehicles, HGVs, PHVs, and buses.
  4. Class D has the widest range as it includes LGVs, HGVs, PHVs, taxis, coaches, buses, and cars.

Clean Air Zones that are operational

Not all of the UK’s planned areas for CAZs are already operational. The CAZs that are now open include:

  • Birmingham
  • Bath
  • Portsmouth
  • Bristol – opening in November 2022
  • Bradford – opening in September 2022
  • Tyneside (Gateshead and Newcastle) – opening in winter, in the latter part of 2022 and the early part of 2023
  • Sheffield – opening in early 2023
  • Greater Manchester – opening schedule is still under review

More Clean Air Zones are expected to open within the year.

Nitrogen oxide

Emissions that come from road transport, particularly diesel vehicles, are dangerous and can have devastating effects on the environment and human health. NOx or nitrogen oxide is a gas that has NO or nitric oxide and NO2 or nitrogen dioxide as major components.

NOx is known to help in the formation of acid rain, smog, and ground-level ozone. Additionally, it also affects vegetation negatively, making plants and crops susceptible to frost.

Exposure to nitrogen oxide is also responsible for triggering mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety. 

Common health impacts for those exposed to low levels of NOx emissions are difficulty breathing, headaches, corroded teeth, asthma, aggravated asthma for those who already have it, and other respiratory issues.

For individuals who are constantly exposed to high levels of nitrogen oxides, the effects include increased risk for certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases, laryngospasm, asphyxiation, chronically reduced lung function, and premature death.

Some people also suffer from bronchitis and emphysema after regular exposure to nitrogen oxide.

 Dieselgate scandal

Nitrogen oxide is also popular because of the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal that broke in 2015. US authorities called on German manufacturer Volkswagen after finding defeat devices in diesel vehicles that were sold in the American market.

A defeat device is programmed to detect when a vehicle is in regulatory testing so it can artificially reduce emissions to within the WHO-mandated limits. 

However, when driven in real-world road conditions, the vehicle emits NOx in voluminous amounts that are in excess of the EU and WHO regulatory limits.

As such, the vehicle is a heavy pollutant.

Mercedes-Benz, another German carmaker, was also found to have used the defeat device for their diesel vehicles.

Filing a diesel emissions compensation claim

Those affected by the diesel emissions scandal can get compensation for the deceit, inconvenience, and financial distress that the erring car manufacturers subjected them to. It can be a long and challenging process, but working with a panel of emissions solicitors will make the process easier and faster. 

If you’re looking for a reliable, committed, professionally trained, and experienced panel of emissions solicitors, check out They’ve been in the industry for years and are experts at knowing how to file a successful emissions claim. The panel is also regulated and offers a no-win-no-fee guarantee. Visit their website to see if you are eligible to claim today.

Yahir Leroy

The author Yahir Leroy