As the race to net zero continues and with the sale of new petrol and diesel cars expected to be banned by 2050, the government and local authorities across the UK are introducing new measures to lower emissions and improve the air quality in towns and cities.
Clean Air Zones (CAZ), or Low Emission Zones (LEZ) if you’re in Scotland, have been designed to promote cleaner air by encouraging motorists to drive to newer, less polluting vehicles, or to use public transport.
With potential penalty charges and limitations on areas drivers can go, these initiatives could pose financial and operational challenges for businesses. Despite this, research commissioned by Northgate found that 29% of businesses were still unaware of the rules around Clean Air Zones.
Whether you’re a sole trader with just one business vehicle, or you run an entire fleet, it’s important to understand what these zones mean and how it might impact your business.
Click the links below to take you to each section of the guide:
Depending on where you are in the UK, the initiatives to improve air quality in towns and cities have different names.
In England, they’re commonly referred to as ‘Clean Air Zones’ and in Scotland they’re ‘Low Emission Zones’. And when it comes to ‘Ultra-Low Emission Zones’, you’ll only find them in London. That being said, you might find that people use the names interchangeably as ultimately, they’ve been introduced to achieve the same thing.
A zone is a designated area that charges or penalises high polluting vehicles based on their Euro emission standard. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are in operation 24 hours a day and will detect vehicles that don’t comply. The drivers of those vehicles will then typically need to pay a fine.
The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association has created an interactive map to show you where these zones are in the UK.
In England, there are four types of Clean Air Zones, Class A to D.
A = Buses, coaches, taxis, private hires
B = Buses, coaches, taxis, private hires, HGVs
C = Buses, coaches, taxis, private hires, HGVs, vans, minibuses
D = Buses, coaches, taxis, private hires, HGVs, vans, minibuses, cars (local authorities have the option to include motorbikes)
In March 2023, the Welsh Government published plans for a new Clean Air Act which includes information on developing a Clean Air Zone/Low Emission Zone for some of the country’s busiest roads. Read more about the proposals here.
For more information on emission zone plans in Northern Ireland, read more about the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) air quality monitoring, policy and legislation.
To avoid being charged, vehicles must meet a minimum standard, which is based on the following Euro emission standard:
Local authorities may have different emission standards or rules for taxis and private hire vehicles. So, it’s worthwhile contacting your local authority or visiting their website for more information.
You can find a vehicle’s emission standard in the logbook, or visit the government’s website and enter your registration number to find out if your vehicle can drive in a zone.
Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones can cause financial and operational challenges for businesses. To understand the potential impact of Clean Air Zones or Low Emission Zones on your business, and to minimise disruption, you can:
Top tip: If your business owns two or more vehicles, you should set up a Clean Air Zone business account. With this, you can upload multiple number plates, add extra team members, view maps of Clean Air Zones and find out about exemptions.
Some vehicles are exempt from paying a zone charge. For example, a vehicle registered with a disabled tax class, or certain agricultural vehicles, are automatically entitled to a national exemption. You can learn more about local and national exemptions on the official Low Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones websites.
If your vehicle doesn’t qualify for an exemption, there are things you can do to avoid being charged.
If you found this page useful, visit our small business sustainability hub for more free tools, tips and expert advice.
Please note, SSE Energy Solutions has written this blog for information purposes only. We recommend speaking to your own business and financial advisors before taking any direct action that will impact your business.