A Clean Air Zone is designed to improve air quality in certain urban areas within the UK. These designated areas impose certain restrictions on vehicles that don’t meet a required emission standard. Drivers of these vehicles usually have to pay a certain charge to enter these zones.
As of February 2023, Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Sheffield, Tyneside, and Portsmouth are the seven UK cities enforcing Clean Air Zones.
There are 4 types of Clean Air Zones: Class A, B, C and D. Different vehicles are charged to enter and drive in the zone, depending on the class. Class A is the least restrictive and Class D is the most restrictive. These restrictions are based on your vehicle type and which emissions standards it meets.
There is no charge to drive through a Clean Air Zone if your vehicle meets:
You can use the UK Government's online checker to find out whether your vehicle meets the right standards for driving into a Clean Air Zone. You should check before driving into each Clean Air Zone as the restrictions often differ. While your vehicle may meet the requirements for one zone, it may not in another. You can also check the list of national exemptions for more details. There are also other exemptions granted by local authorities running Clean Air Zones.
If your vehicle doesn’t meet the required emissions standard, you must pay the charge within 6 days of driving into the Clean Air Zone. You can pay up to 6 days in advance and businesses that manage 2 or more UK registered vehicles can set up an account to pay charges in bulk.
An Ultra-Low Emissions Zone drastically reduces toxic air pollution in an urban area. As a result, it is a lot more restrictive than a Clean Air Zone. An ULEZ aims to encourage drivers to switch to a cleaner, greener form of transport to reduce their Nitrogen Dioxide output.
A Low-Emissions Zone is very similar to a Clean Air Zone. A lEZ restricts certain vehicles from entering without banning them. You have to pay a charge to drive through if your vehicle doesn't meet the right emissions standard (as above). LEZs are designed to encourage the use of cleaner vehicles and improve air quality in the worst polluted areas.
They are becoming increasingly popular across Europe as well as the UK.
As of November 2022, the only ULEZ in the UK is in London. It covers all areas within the North and South Circular roads, but not these roads themselves. Any journey made in a vehicle that doesn’t meet the required emissions standards costs £12.50. This includes residents that live within the ULEZ. You must pay to drive in the zone 364 days a year, with Christmas Day the only exception.
You will also have to pay the Congestion Charge if you drive through that zone as well.
The Mayor of London plans to expand the ULEZ to cover the entire city by the end of August 2023. However, this is still yet not confirmed due to the lack of finanical help offered to the 3.5m Londoners it would affect.
As of November 2022, an LEZ affects drivers in the following areas:
London (affecting only the most heavily polluting diesel vehicles)
The following cities also have Low-Emissions Zones, but the charges currently only apply to buses:
Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh are expected to introduce Low-Emissions Zones in 2024.
In August 2023, the London ULEZ is expanding further around London to help reduce emissions even more. Here are some of the burroughs that will be included in the new ULEZ. This is not a complete list, but a guide to show how far the new boundary reaches.
Areas include in the new 2023 ULEZ zone expansion are:
Areas part of this part of the ULEZ include:
The south is where the majority of the 2023 ULEZ expansion is happening, with some of the following areas being included:
Key areas west of Greater London will now fall in the ULEZ zone after it expands in August 2023. Areas included are:
These changes are effective from 29th of August, 2023.
Find out more about the Bath Clean Air Zone in this guide. We cover where it is, what vehicles are exempt, how much the charges are and more.
Find out more about the Birmingham Clean Air Zone in this guide. We cover where it is, what vehicles are exempt, how much the charges are and more.
Find out more about the Bristol Clean Air Zone in this guide. We cover where it is, what vehicles are exempt, how much the charges are and more.
Find out more about the Bradford Clean Air Zone in this guide. We cover where it is, what vehicles are exempt, how much the charges are and more.
Find out more about the Portsmouth Clean Air Zone in this guide. We cover where it is, what vehicles are exempt, how much the charges are and more.
If you regularly drive into a Clean Air Zone, LEZ or ULEZ, the charges can quickly add up. Discover whether driving an electric car will help remove this frustration by reading this guide.
If you have questions about Britain’s first Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ), this article explores what a ZEZ is, where the Oxford zone extends to, how much the charges are, and who is exempt or eligible for a discount.