It’s working says council as CAZ celebrates first birthday

The Clean Air Zone is working well say leaders at Bath & North East Somerset Council who are thanking residents and businesses for supporting it on the anniversary of its launch.

On 15 March 2021, Bath initiated the first charging clean air zone outside of London to urgently drive down high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in the city centre.

One year on, there is every indication that the class C zone, which does not charge cars, is working well to change behaviours and improve air quality.  

More than 90% of HGVs, coaches, buses and taxis entering the zone are now compliant with the city’s minimum emission standards, which means they don’t need to pay. Van compliance rates have also improved, rising from 60% during the first month of the zone’s operation to more than 80% compliance.

Around 41,000 unique vehicles travel in the zone every day. Most of these are private cars, but around 5,300 (13 per cent) are buses, taxis, vans or HGVs that only pay in the zone if they don’t comply with emission charges.  An even smaller percentage have to pay, and this figure has halved since launch from 4.5 per cent of all vehicles having to pay, to just 1.5 per cent (just over 600 vehicles) by February 2022. 

The annual report on Bath’s CAZ will not be published until July 2022 following an analysis of the results by central government. However, available data from the first half of the year suggests that NO2 pollution across Bath – not just within the zone – fell by 14% compared with the same period in 2019. This is despite traffic returning to normal and, at times, above historic levels as pandemic restrictions eased.

The council has supported this fleet change with its financial assistance scheme to help replace the city’s most polluting, chargeable vehicles with cleaner ones. Figures show 1,500 vehicles were approved for grants and interest-free finance, 800 vehicles have so far been replaced using these funds, and 200 more replacements are currently on order. Local business owners and residents with compliant vehicles on order are currently benefiting from exemptions.

Councillor Sarah Warren, deputy leader and cabinet member for Climate and Sustainable Travel, said: “On the anniversary of Bath’s Clean Air Zone, we want to celebrate where we are in this journey, and say thank you to people for their support. This includes bus, freight and logistic companies, local business and taxi drivers who applied for funds to replace polluting vehicles.  

“We also want to thank residents who are consciously limiting short car journeys through the city, despite cars not being charged in the zone.

“The signs of improvement we see are heartening and important. Adapting to the zone has been hard, but we’re proud of the way that the city has got behind it. We’re not out of the woods yet – there is still room for improvement – but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

Nitrogen dioxide is extremely toxic. You can’t see it, or smell it, but it can contribute to fatal asthma attacks, make respiratory and heart problems worse, and is associated with reduced lung development in children. A recent study has also suggested that falling air pollution may help to fend off conditions such as dementia.

Since its launch, the zone has generated £5.3 million in revenue. All revenue continues to cover initial investment and future operating costs. Once these are sufficiently funded, any surplus income would be allocated to support the council’s sustainable transport initiatives.  

Plans to further improve neighbourhoods and create healthier communities in Bath and North East Somerset are taking shape under the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme  as well as plans for the development of six residents parking zones.

And work continues on the council’s Journey to Net Zero to reduce the environmental impact of transport in Bath and help combat climate change, improve air quality, improve health and wellbeing, and tackle congestion.

  • For full information on Bath’s CAZ and a map of the zone, go to  www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ
  • To view the latest air quality monitoring data on Bath’s Clean Air Zone (from April to end September 2021, go to https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/policy-and-documents-library/baths-clean-air-zone-monitoring-reports
  • Air quality is monitored at 120 stations across the city. Data gathered from monitoring stations is reviewed at the end of each year to allow annual average nitrogen dioxide concentrations to be calculated. Historic reports are available at https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/environment/pollution/air-quality/reports.
  • The annual report on Bath’s CAZ, setting out air quality and vehicle compliance data for 2021, including the annual average levels of NO2 from all monitoring stations will be available in July 2022 once all data is collected and verified, and the government has analysed the council’s report.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, ambient (outdoor) air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.
  • In Bath & North East Somerset around 12,000 people suffer from asthma, and high concentrations of NOcan trigger attacks.
  • The Government mandated Bath & North East Somerset Council to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in Bath to below an annual average of 40 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) as soon as possible and by the end of 2021.
  • The government’s Joint Air Quality Unit is independently verifying all the work done.
  • Bath is operating a class C charging clean air zone which means most higher vehicles emission need to pay to drive in the zone. Cars and motorbikes do not have to pay, regardless of emissions, except taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • A higher emission vehicle is a pre-euro 6 (euro 1 to 5) diesel vehicle or pre-euro 4 (euro 1, 2 or 3) petrol vehicle.
  • Higher emission buses, coaches, HGVs and PHGVs (larger motorhomes and horse transporters) pay £100 a day
  • Higher emission taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses and vans (including pick-ups plus some campers and Land Rover 4 x 4s) pay £9 a day
  • Charges are based on the type of vehicle and its emission standard, not its use (private or commercial)
  • Motorists can check if they need to pay to drive in a clean air zone, and pay a clean air zone charge, at www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones
  • If charges apply, motorists can declare their journey and pay six days in advance, on the day the vehicle is driven in the zone, and in the following six days (a 13-day payment window). No reminders are sent.
  • Non-compliant larger motorhomes and horse transporters which are classed PHGV on a V5C can apply to Bath and North East Somerset Council for a reduced rate to pay £9 rather than £100.
  • Local exemptions are available from Bath and North East Somerset Council to support hard to replace vehicles, vulnerable groups and vital services.
  • Around 1,800 local exemptions have been awarded to support motorists with hard to replace vehicles, and to support vulnerable groups. A further 330 exemptions are currently held by drivers with compliant vehicles on order who are waiting for delivery of their new vehicle, placed either independently or via the council’s financial assistance scheme.
  • The Council secured a package of £23.4 million from the government for the scheme. This includes £7.09m for implementing the scheme, £11.3m for supporting measures, such as the financial support, and a contingency fund.
  • 1,500 non-compliant vehicles were deemed eligible for financial support via the council’s financial assistance scheme. Around 800 vehicles have been replaced with cleaner ones, with 200 more in the pipeline. Those waiting for delivery of their vehicles have exemptions.
  • The Council has engaged extensively with the public about the scheme since Spring 2018. It contacted 9,000 local businesses directly about the zone promoting its financial assistance scheme to upgrade non-compliant vehicles.