The UK’s first charging traffic pollution scheme outside of London has launched in Bath in a bid to drive down harmful pollution and protect public health.
The Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is designed to tackle Bath’s air pollution problem which is mainly caused by vehicle emissions, with several areas in the city regularly exceeding the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, even during lockdown.
Bath and North East Somerset Council secured £9.4m of funding from the government to help residents and businesses, including coach companies and taxi drivers, to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones.
The council has set up a scheme to help owners upgrade their vehicles and already more than 500 businesses have applied, while a further £1.58m has helped local bus operators to retrofit fleet not already compliant in the zone.
Bath is the first of several charging Clean Air Zones to be introduced across England over the next few years, including in Birmingham, which will begin on 1 June 2021, while London has the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Polluting vehicles will be charged £9 or £100 a day to drive in the centre of Bath, while private cars and motorbikes will not be charged.
Daily charges will apply seven days a week, midnight to midnight, all year round for chargeable vehicles with a pre Euro 6 diesel or pre Euro 4 petrol engine.
Automatic number plate recognition cameras have been installed on all roads leading into the zone and vehicle number plates will be checked against a DVLA database.
Motorists with a non-compliant, chargeable vehicle, including those from outside the UK, must declare and pay for their journey at GOV.UK or they will receive a penalty charge notice.
Grants and interest-free finance are available through Bath and North East Somerset Council to help those regularly affected by the charges to replace or retrofit their vehicles.
Commenting, Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Dine Romero said: “This a landmark day for the city. We’ve put up with unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide for too long. This is unfair on residents, particularly vulnerable older people and children.
“We want to reduce NO2 pollution in Bath to within legal limits by the end of 2021 at the latest, and a charging Clean Air Zone is the only way we can achieve this.
“We know this is difficult time for businesses, but we’ve gone ahead with the zone during the pandemic because this is a pressing public health issue. However, we are working with residents and businesses to help them replace polluting vehicles with cleaner ones and there is significant financial and practical help available.”
Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Sarah Warren said: “The Clean Air Zone is just the start of a concerted effort to promote more sustainable travel.
“We’re also looking at developing liveable neighbourhoods, supporting businesses to use e-cargo bike deliveries, improving our public transport and encouraging more active travel, such as walking and cycling. Any revenue from the zone, over and above the operating costs, must and will be reinvested in sustainable transport for the area.”