ULEZ and Clear Air Zones: Where are they in place in the UK - what has been the reaction to them?

Many locations, including London, Glasgow and Newcastle, have introduced emission schemes to improve air quality in the UK's biggest cities
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Sadiq Khan has widened the ULEZ scrappage scheme in order to help Londoners get to grips with the controversial restrictions in the capital.

The London Mayor has now made a £2,000 grant available to all residents in the capital to help them to upgrade their non-compliant cars and vehicles. The scheme, which previously covered only a portion of drivers who were entitled to means-tested benefits, will be opened up from 21 August.

It comes after a tense few weeks over ULEZ restrictions for Khan. He was blamed for Labour's failure in not picking up Boris Johnson's former constituency seat in a recent by-election due to local opposition to ULEZ plans, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer initially stating Khan would need to "reflect" on the situation.

Low emission zones and restrictions are no stranger to those across the UK as well as those in London. Dozens of new schemes have popped up in cities up and down the country, including Glasgow, Newcastle and Birmingham.

Here's everything you need to know about the emission plans across the UK.

UK Clear Air Zones

Various types of low emission zones have been introduced across the country. They are all to varying degrees however.

Classifications fall from A through to D and cover an increasing number of vehicles included in the ban.

Class A impacts buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles. York is currently the only city with a 'Class A' zone implemented.

Class B impacts all of the same vehicles as well as HGVs. Portsmouth is currently the only city under a Class B CAZ.

Class C again includes all of the above, with vans and minibuses also impacted. London, Bath, Sheffield, Bradford and Newcastle all come under this umbrella.

Class D is further reaching, including all cars and it gives the local authority the option to include motorcycles if it wishes. Most CAZ cities come under this category, with Bristol and Birmingham introducing the restrictions, as well as an equivalent LEZ (low emission zone) classification in Scottish cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Oxford operates a 'Zero Emission Zone' (ZEZ) in which electric vehicles can drive in the designated zone free of charge but emitting vehicles face charges between 7am and 7pm.

The implementation of a similar scheme has been paused in Greater Manchester after Mayor Andy Burnham said the proposed £60 fine for drivers was "inherently unfair" in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

How much does a CAZ or ULEZ fine cost?

Fines for those who break the CAZ or ULEZ rules vary from city to city:

  • Aberdeen - £60
  • Bath - £9 for small vehicles, £100 for large vehicles
  • Birmingham - £8 for small vehicles, £50 for large vehicles
  • Bristol - £9 for small vehicles, £100 for large vehicles
  • Bradford - £7 for taxis, £9 for small vehicles, £50 for large vehicles
  • Dundee - £60
  • Edinburgh - £60
  • Glasgow - £60
  • London - £12.50, £180 fine for failing to pay charge
  • Oxford (ZEZ) - £2 for ultra low emission vehicles, £4 for low emission vehicles, and £10 for non-compliant vehicles
  • Newcastle & Gateshead - £12.50 for small vehicles, £50 for large vehicles
  • Portsmouth - £10 for taxis, £50 for large vehicles
  • Sheffield - £10 for small vehicles, £50 for large vehicles
  • Southampton - no charge
  • York - no charge

Reaction to CAZ and ULEZ restrictions

The controversy around the ULEZ restrictions in London boiled to the surface again following the by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where Labour failed to capitalise on the flailing Tory Party and take the seat formerly held by ex-PM Boris Johnson. Many believe Labour's London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, was to blame for his ULEZ implementation in the city.

In the aftermath of the drama surrounding the by-election result, Sadiq Khan, who is under a legal obligation to reduce London's emissions, has pledged more money to help Londoners ditch their older, high-emissions vehicle in favour of a newer, greener one.

However, despite the furore around the plans, ULEZ still has the backing of the majority of Londoners according to polling from our sister website LondonWorld in July 2023. It showed 58% of those 1,100 people polled backed the scheme as it was at the moment, with 52% stating that they had noticed an improvement in air quality.

Reporters for another sister title, BristolWorld, spoke to residents on a street in the city which had been split in two by the CAZ restrictions. While some said that they welcomed the new improvement to air quality, local businesses said they had been negatively impacted and noted losing customers as patrons were unable to drive to the location without incurring a charge or fine.

Likewise, a major impact on business had been noted by GlasgowWorld, with taxi drivers decrying the city's LEZ restrictions. Many taxis are older vehicles, meaning much of the trade in the city centre cannot be picked up.

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