In the Zone - take charge, avoid the charges

Martin Gurdon


London’s Congestion Charge has been around for nearly two decades, and taking exhaust gases out of the Capital’s air was one reason for its introduction. An increasing number of other British cities have similar plans for what are generally known as CAZ Clean Air Zones, focusing on areas of serious emissions-sourced air pollution. In late October 2021 London will also expand the charging zones to the North and South Circular Roads (see here).

To start with, most zones will be exempting private cars from their pay-to-drive plans, however polluting they might be, but there will be some exceptions. 

Many buses, commercial vehicles, taxis and often older petrol cars that don’t meet Euro 4 exhaust gas regulations (Euro 6 for diesels) are in the charging firing line.

There will be signage to tell drivers when they’re crossing a CAZ border, number plate recognition cameras to record vehicles, and official payment portals -just like the long-standing London Congestion Charge.

There are four CAZ charging categories, which will operate constantly all year round:

BMW PHEV eDrive Zone driving in London

Some urban areas that proposed CAZ charging zones then rejected them, choosing other pollution-reducing measures (such as introducing electric buses) or citing air quality improvements thanks to a Covid-related drop in vehicle use. 

These include Basildon, Broxbourne, Coventry, Leicester, Leeds, Sheffield and Cardiff, although congestion charging is still under consideration there as part of the local authority’s ten year transport plan. Likely future CAZ candidates include Liverpool (in 2023), and Stoke-on-Trent.

In Scotland Glasgow’s authorities are working towards a city-wide LEZ Low Emission Zone by 2023, something similar is under discussion in Edinburgh, which plans to have an LEZ running by next Spring. Likewise, Aberdeen and Dundee, although in both cases the Scottish Government would like to see charging systems running by May 2022.

CAZs favour zero emission electric models, which are currently charge exempt, and drivers of other vehicles can see if they have to pay at this Government web page.

New Clean Air Zone in Bath City

Here’s a list of where CAZs have arrived, or are coming soon:


The picturesque spa town has operated a Class C CAZ since mid-March. Right now, private cars and motorcycles are exempt, as it majors on commercial vehicles and buses, but some Bath-based motorhome owners are being charged.

The CAZ zone wriggles around the city centre. You can find a map here. Bath’s CAZ website is here.

New Clean Air Zone sign in Bath City


Britain’s second city is another CAZ early adopter, launching its Class D scheme in mid-June (it would have arrived last year but for the pandemic). Birmingham is being less generous than Bath when it comes to charging private cars.

The CAZ is within the A4540 Middleway ring road - but not the Middleway itself. There’s a daily £8 charge for older petrol and diesel cars, but Euro 4 petrol and Euro 6 diesel and hybrid cars are currently exempt, as of course are electric vehicles.

Click here for details.


Bradford is hoping to have a CAZ up and running by next January, and is awaiting Government approval for its scheme. Bus and truck drivers would pay £50 a day, taxis £12.50, and for vans and light commercials it’s £9. As you read this private car owners won’t be charged to enter the city. Click here for more information.


Bristol hopes to have its Class D CAZ in place by October. You can find a map of where it will be here. Non-compliant cars, taxis and light commercials pay £9 a day, buses, coaches and HGVs £100. Locals earning less than £24,000 a year can apply for an exemption for the first year. Hospital visits are also excluded. Bristol has set out its CAZ plans here.


Cambridge councillors are actively considering a Class C CAZ, and an Ultra Low Emissions Zone is also being discussed. That, according to the local press, could see a £5 charge for cars entering the university city. If proposals are agreed charges could start in 2022.


Greater Manchester is moving towards a Class C Class CAZ, which should be in operation next Spring. Final plans expected to be agreed this summer.

Non-exempt coaches, buses and HGVs will pay £60 day. Light commercials, vans and minibuses £10, taxis and private hire cars £7.50.

New Clean Air Zone in Manchester City


Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside. Public consultation showed support for a Class C scheme. According to the Patrol website, this should be introduced in January next year.


Oxford is working towards a clean air scheme with a different acronym. This is ZEZ (for Zero Emission Zone). From August there will be a pilot city centre charging zone covering Bonn Square, Queen Street, Cornmarket, part of Market Street, Ship Street, St Michael’s Street, New Inn Hall Street, and Shoe Lane.

Zero emission vehicles are exempt, but everyone else would pay between £2 to £10 a day, from 7am to 7pm (rising to between £4 and £20 from August 2025). Other vehicles would be permitted in the zone but would be charged from £2 to £10 per day (rising to between £4 and £20 per day from August 2025). There would be discounts and exemptions for some drivers, including locals and those with disabilities.

If deemed successful, the ZEZ could be expanded city-wide next spring. For details click here.


Portsmouth is set to launch its Class B CAZ in the autumn, as plans have been agreed to charge non-compliant coaches, buses and HGVs £50 a day and taxis £10 a day. Cameras are being installed as you read this (click here for more information). For a map of Portsmouth’s CAZ visit here.

Car exhaust pipe

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