Will you have to pay?

Local businesses are being asked to check whether they qualify for financial support to replace or upgrade higher emission vehicles that would otherwise be charged in Bath’s clean air zone (CAZ) from spring 2021.

Bath’s class C zone is the first of several clean air zones planned in England to urgently tackle air pollution. It will operate in the city centre 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and will charge most higher emission vehicles to drive in the zone, except private cars and motorbikes

B&NES has already taken more than 700 calls from businesses expressing an interest in the scheme where eligible applicants would receive a grant of up to £4,500 to upgrade taxis, PHVs and vans; £20,000 for heavy goods vehicles; and £35,000 for buses and coaches. On top of this, interest-free finance can be arranged.

The financial aid, funded by the Government, is aimed at owners of higher emission vehicles who could face charges of £9 or £100 a day. It includes grants and/or interest free finance to significantly reduce the cost of a replacement vehicle.

Vehicles that would qualify for the scheme include pre-euro 6 diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol taxis, PHVs, minibuses, vans, buses, coaches and HGVs that drive in the city centre at least twice a week. Priority will be given to individuals, charities, sole traders, and small businesses located in Bath and North East Somerset and surrounding authorities. Buses providing scheduled services in the city will all be upgraded via a separate government fund. 

The council has appointed three FCA-registered vehicle asset finance companies – Close Brothers Asset Finance, Maxxia and Shire Leasing to administer the scheme under a unique framework, developed by the council, which can also be used by other authorities planning clean air zones.

To support businesses affected by the impact of Covid-19 the council has extended its support to include a two-year exemption from charges for drivers of euro 4 and 5 diesel vehicles who are eligible for the scheme but fail a lenders’ credit check. These businesses can also re-apply to the scheme when their finances recover.

It has also amended its taxi licensing policy to allow euro 4 and 5 diesel taxis to operate in the zone from 15 March where a licensed taxis/PHV driver has failed lenders’ credit checks and been issued with the exemption. 

Councillor Sarah Warren, joint cabinet member for Climate Emergency, said: “The council has done a great job in securing significant funds from the government for this scheme, and we want to ensure those who need help, get it. We’re urging businesses to check their vehicles to see if charges apply, and to then find out more about this scheme. With a cleaner vehicle you’ll be avoiding regular charges in the zone, and you’ll also be doing something good for the environment and everybody’s health.

“Our advisors are talking to lots of local businesses about the support available, and more than 700 people have expressed an interest, which is great. But we are asking for more businesses to come forward and find out more about this support.”

In the first instance, the council is asking anyone who drives in central Bath to check whether their vehicle will be charged in the zone using the GOV.UK vehicle checker at www.gov.uk/cleanairzone.

If charges apply to the vehicle, those who drive regularly in the zone can check the terms of the financial scheme and whether they qualify for support at www.bathnes.gov.uk/CAZsupport.

Drivers of chargeable vehicles are also advised to check the local exemptions available for certain types of vehicles, including hard to replace vehicles, emergency and health service vehicles, and vehicles supporting vulnerable groups. This is available at www.bathnes.gov.uk/CAZexemptions.

More information is available at the council’s website: www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ