The rise of Low Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones

Low Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones are spreading across the country. They are at the centre of efforts to tackle air pollution in Britain’s towns and cities – and may be coming soon to an area near you.


London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) has been in effect since 2008. Vans must meet the Euro 3 emissions standards to drive in most of Greater London; those that don’t must pay a £100-a-day fee. HGVs, meanwhile, have to meet the Euro IV standards or pay £200 a day. In addition, since October 2017, the new £10-a-day T-Charge applies to all pre-Euro 4/IV vehicles in the central London Congestion Charge Zone.

On 8 April 2019, central London will become the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Effectively, the T-Charge will be increased to £12.50 for cars and vans, and diesels will have to meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standards to avoid paying it. Lorries that do not meet the Euro VI standards will face a £100-a-day fee to drive within central London. For pre-Euro 3 vans and pre-Euro IV lorries, this will come on top of the existing LEZ fees. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is proposing further changes in the future. First, he plans to increase the emissions standards that apply to heavy vehicles in the LEZ to Euro VI from 26 October 2020. Pre-Euro VI HGVs would face a £100-a-day fee, while pre-Euro IV ones would see their daily fee rise from £200 to £300. Second, Khan wants to expand the ULEZ for cars and vans up to (but not including) the North and South Circular roads from 25 October 2021. And he also plans to establish new Zero Emission Zones in London town centres from 2020 and in central London from 2025.

Clean Air Zones

Five English cities have been ordered to introduce Clean Air Zones by 2020: Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. Other Local Authorities are also considering introducing Clean Air Zones, including in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff, Warrington, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Bath.

It is up to each local authority to decide the scope of their Clean Air Zone and which policies to introduce within it. The general idea is that Clean Air Zones involve targeted measures to encourage the use of ultra-low emission vehicles and deter the use of the most polluting vehicles.

Some Clean Air Zones may include charges on the oldest, dirtiest vehicles, but the Government has made clear that such charges should only be introduced if air quality targets cannot be met without them. It has also stipulated that, like in London’s ULEZ, vehicles that meet the Euro 6/VI emissions standards must be exempted from any charges.

Meanwhile, plans are being developed for a Zero Emission Zone in Oxford, starting with the most polluted streets in 2020 before expanding to encompass the whole city centre by 2035.


The Scottish Government has ordered all four of its largest cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee) to introduce Low Emission Zones by 2020.

The first is due to begin in Glasgow at the end of 2018. However, it will initially only apply to buses, with the aim to make all buses in the city centre Euro VI-compliant by the end of 2022. Glasgow City Council intends to consult on the second phase of implementation, which will include cars and vans, over the next year.

How will Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones affect you?

The upshot is that many towns and cities across the UK will see Clean Air Zones or Low Emission Zones introduced in the next few years. Some of these, like London, will impose charges on the most polluting vehicles, but fleets and motorists will be able to avoid these charges by switching to the newest, Euro 6/VI compliant petrol or diesel models or to alternatively-fuelled vehicles. When Zero Emission Zones come into force in London and Oxford, electric and hydrogen vehicles will be the only options for driving within them.

To find out more about how the introduction of Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones will affect you, please get in touch.