UK clean air zones: the cities adding low emissions zones in 2023 and how to check if you are affected

Newcastle, Sheffield and Glasgow among cities imposing new charges on drivers in bid to cut pollution

Drivers are being urged to check if they are affected as a number of UK cities introduce or expand their low-emissions zones in the coming months.

Two cities will introduce all-new clean air zones in 2023, with another due to tighten restrictions and the possibility of a fourth coming into force as local authorities look to cut pollution. The changes have prompted a warning to drivers to check nearby local restrictions or face potential fines.

Clean air zones apply charges to vehicles which do not meet minimum emissions standards. Most charge tolls of between £7 and £50 on non-compliant vehicles, although fines for non-payment can reach £2,000.

The minimum standards are petrol cars and vans which meet Euro 4 standards; Euro 6-compliant diesel cars and vans; HGVs, buses and coaches that meet Euro VI and Euro 3-compliant motorbikes.

The first new clean air zone begins operation in Tyneside from the end of January, covering Newcastle and Gateshead. Charging will be introduced in two phases – with non-compliant taxis, private hire vehicles, buses, coaches and HGVs being charged from 30 January. Vans and light goods vehicles will not face charges until July 2023, while cars, minibuses and motorbikes will be exempt from the charges, which are £12.50 a day for vans and taxis and £50 per day for buses, coaches and HGVs.

Which cities are bringing in clean air zones. Credit: Kim Mogg

From Monday 27 February, Sheffield will introduce a Class C clean air zone, which applies to buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans and minibuses. Taxis will receive an exemption until 5 June, while LGV owners based in Sheffield or Rotherham could be eligible for the same temporary exemption. Charges will be £10 per day for non-compliant vans/LGVs and taxis and £50 per day for coaches, buses and lorries/HGVs.

Car and van drivers entering Glasgow will also face penalties from later this year as the city’s existing LEZ restrictions are tightened. Since 2018, regulations have covered local service buses but from 1 June 2023, all vehicles entering the zone will have to meet the basic emissions standards or be liable for a fine of £60. There is an extended grace period until June 2024 for residents within the LEZ.

Three other Scottish cities - Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen - introduced LEZ in 2022 but grace periods for drivers run until early 2024 to allow them to switch to compliant vehicles.

Many local authorities are bringing in clean air zones in 2023. Credit: Kim Mogg

Manchester was due to introduce a charged clean air zone but its future is in doubt after the plans were suspended in 2022. The original plan for a Class C charge zone is under review after the government scaled back emissions targets for the city. As a result, Greater Manchester Combined Authority has submitted a new clean air strategy which does not include a charged low-emissions zone.

Motorists in six other English cities already face clean air zone restrictions. Drivers in London are subject to the city’s strict ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) while Birmingham and Bristol both have tough restrictions which affect private cars and vans as well as larger lorries and public transport.

Both Bath and Bradford have Class C clean air zones, which target vans, minibuses, coaches, taxis, HGVs, buses and private hire vehicles but not private cars, while Portsmouth’s Class B restrictions also apply exemptions to vans and minibuses.

Drivers in England can check if their vehicle is exempt from charges by using the government’s online checker tool. Details of exemptions for Scottish cities can be found on the Low Emission Zones Scotland website.

A spokesperson for dash cam and speed camera detector maker Road Angel said: “We welcome changes to improve air quality in our cities but we don’t want these changes to take any drivers by surprise.

“Therefore we are urging drivers who may be visiting any of these cities to check the government’s website to find out if they are required to obtain a permit for a clean air zone. It’s also worth checking the vehicle’s logbook where information on the vehicle’s emission rate can be found to determine if charges can be applicable in clean air zones.”