Bath is to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone in March 2021, charging vans and other commercial vehicles but not private cars.
The Class C zone was due to start in November but, due to Covid-19, will now launch on Monday 15 March 2021, unless there are any other significant developments regarding the pandemic.
The announcement on the CAZ has been timed to coincide with the UK’s Clean Air Day 2020; Bath will be the first city outside London to deploy a charging CAZ, which the council says is essential to meet clean air targets. Schemes in Birmingham and Leeds were due to go live this year but have also been delayed, initially due to delays from the Government side but later because of coronavirus. Birmingham has now announced its scheme will launch in June 2021.
The scheme is being launched after Bath & North East Somerset Council, along with 27 other authorities, was told by the Government in 2017 to take urgent action to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels caused by vehicle emissions in the shortest possible time – and by 2021 at the latest. The council has said that technical work showed that a charging zone was the only measure that could achieve compliance in the given time frame.
The scheme will operate in the city centre 24/7. Charges will apply to pre-euro 6 diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol vehicles, except private cars and motorbikes.
Non-compliant taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses, LGVs and vans (including pick-ups and campervans) will be charged £9 a day while non-compliant buses, coaches and HGVs will be charged £100 a day.
The council added the decision on the new start date has been based on air quality, traffic levels and the impacts of Covid-19 on local businesses and the economy; it’s currently contacting more than 9,000 local businesses to help them establish whether charges will apply to their vehicles, and how to access the support on offer.
The council is now urging residents and businesses to check their vehicles to see if they’ll be charged, using the Government’s central CAZ service.
Fleets and drivers can also check the council’s website for a list of local exemptions and whether they might be eligible for financial support to upgrade vehicles. The council has secured a total funding package of £23.452m to implement the scheme and provide supporting measures, such as the financial assistance scheme.
Under the scheme, eligible van drivers could get up to £4,500 in grants, plus interest-free finance, to help them upgrade to a similar, compliant vehicle. Grants rise to £20,000 for HGVs and £35,000 for buses and coaches.
Drivers can also apply for local exemptions and discounts on vehicles in November.
Councillor Dine Romero, council leader, said: “There is no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses and this will be an additional cost that they have to consider. We have worked hard to secure a considerable package of financial and other support to help business owners and I would urge them to get in touch, talk to us and find out how we can help.
“We all want clean air and the zone is a step towards our wider ambitions for Bath and North East Somerset to address air quality and tackle the climate emergency.”
Full information on Bath’s Clean Air Zone is online at www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ