Cost of the clean up

Will you have to pay to drive into the city centre?

With just months to go before its introduction, businesses and individuals across the south west are being asked to check whether they will be charged to drive their vehicles in Bath’s Clean Air Zone – ahead of its launch on 15 March.

The introduction of Bath’s Class C Charging Clean Air Zone means that in less than two months, drivers of most pre-euro 6 diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol vehicles will have to pay to drive in the centre of the city.

Private cars and motorbikes will not have to pay to drive in the zone, but daily charges will apply to higher emission buses, coaches, HGVs and motorhomes (£100 a day); and to higher emission minibuses, taxis, private hire vehicles, LGVs and vans, including private pick-ups and campers (£9 a day). Charges apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Businesses and individuals can check whether they will need to pay a charge to drive in a clean air zone using GOV.UK’s vehicle checker at www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge.

This service now includes business accounts that enable users to check compliance of multiple UK-registered vehicles at once.

Councillor Sarah Warren, Joint Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Neighbourhood Services says: “We’re urging businesses and individuals to check whether they need to pay to drive in Bath’s CAZ, well in advance of its launch, using GOV.UK’s vehicle checker.”

“If you know that charges will apply to your vehicles, you can then plan what to do. Rather than pay the charge to drive in the zone, we ask that you look at options to upgrade non-compliant vehicles using the financial support on offer or look at reorganizing larger regional or national fleets, so that non-compliant vehicles avoid Bath.

“There are also local exemptions available for hard-to-replace vehicles, vehicles that support vulnerable groups, and also to support businesses such as taxis and small businesses that might be struggling, due to Covid-19, to secure the grants and interest-free finance included in our support package.”

Bath & North East Somerset Council wants businesses to understand how charging will work. Unlike London’s congestion charge, autopay will not be available in any clean air zone, including Bath’s. This means that owners of non-compliant vehicles will need to carefully manage payments if they are not planning to upgrade or reorganize fleets.

A charging clean air zone works by drivers of non-compliant vehicles declaring their journey and paying online at GOV.UK’s ‘Drive in a clean air zone’ service within a 13-day payment window.

Payment can be made up to 6 days in advance, on the day the vehicle is driven in the zone, or in the 6 days after. No reminders are sent. It’s up to the driver or business account user to pay the daily charge within the payment window using a debit or credit card or saved bank details. Otherwise, they could receive a penalty charge notice.

Bath’s zone will be the first charging clean air zone to launch outside of London, with other cities, including Bristol and Birmingham, planning similar schemes. The intention is to urgently drive down high levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide pollution in the city, mainly caused by vehicle emissions. High levels of this type of pollution are associated with worsening lung and heart conditions, such as asthma.

While private cars and motorbikes are not charged in Bath’s zone, they may well be charged in other zones, and the council is appealing to everyone to consider the way they get around. The message is, if you can, please walk, cycle or take public transport.

Councillor Joanna Wright, Joint Cabinet Member for Transport Services, says, “We can all do something to improve air quality in the city. While charges in the zone only apply to commercial and larger vehicles, we’re appealing to everyone to change their travel habits, particularly when Covid restrictions hopefully lift later in the year as people are vaccinated and the pressure on the NHS reduces.

“That could be using the park and ride, taking the bus, or walking or cycling more – particularly on the school run and for shorter trips across the city. To reduce the harmful levels of NO2 in Bath, we’re asking everyone to do their bit.”

To check your vehicle or open a business user account to check multiple vehicles, use the GOV.UK vehicle checker at www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge

To find out more about Bath’s Clean Air Zone, including a map of the zone, a list of local exemptions and the financial support on offer to support vehicle upgrades, go to www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ

To help raise awareness of Bath’s Clean Air Zone, Bath & North East Somerset Council, supported by the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit, is launching an 8 to 12 week regionwide campaign featuring digital, social media and out of home advertising (which includes roadside billboards, motor services and petrol forecourt posters, bus and radio advertising).