Bath Clean Air Zone begins: here's everything you need to know

It hopes to reduce high levels of air pollution in the city. Credit: ITV News

Bath has become the first English city outside of London to launch a Clean Air Zone, in which certain highly polluting vehicles will be charged to drive into the centre.

Commercial vehicles, such as buses and lorries, that do not meet the required emissions standards now have to pay a daily charge. Private cars and motorbikes are exempt.

The £23 million scheme has been introduced by Bath and North East Somerset Council to cut emissions to within the legal limit by the end of 2021.

Will I be charged?

If you drive a private car, you will not have to pay to drive through the zone.

If you drive a commercial vehicle, such as a coach or a taxi, you might have to.

You will face a charge if you have one of these commercial vehicles:

  • Pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles, excluding hybrids (older than approx. 2015)

  • Pre-Euro 4 petrol vehicles, excluding hybrids (older than approx. 2006)

In technical terms, the zone in Bath is a class C, which omits all private vehicles.

Fully electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are also omitted.

Elsewhere, Bristol’s class D zone will charge private cars when it is introduced in October.

Drivers can click here to see if their vehicle will be charged in Bath.

Where is the zone?

The zone encompasses Royal Victoria Park and as far east as King Edward’s School.

The most northerly point is just south of St Stephen’s Church in Lansdown Road, and it goes as far south as Oldfield Road.

The size and shape changed in response to a consultation that attracted a record 8,400 responses.

Bath and North East Somerset Council believes it can bring nitrogen dioxide levels within the legal limit by the end of the year, without charging private cars.

Bath now has a class C Clean Air Zone. Credit: Bath and North East Somerset Council

When do I have to pay?

Drivers of non-compliant vehicles will need to pay within seven days of driving into the zone using the Government’s Drive in a Clean Air Zone service.

Payment can be made up to six days in advance, on the day the vehicle is driven in the zone, or in the six days after.

The charges will apply from midnight to midnight, seven days a week.

That means if your journey within the zone starts at 11pm and finishes at 1am, you will need to pay two separate daily charges.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras have been installed on all roads leading into the area and vehicle number plates will be checked against a DVLA database.

Charges do not apply if a vehicle is parked in the zone, but does not move.

Failing to pay within the time frame could lead to a penalty charge of £120 – plus the entry fee. The fine will be halved to £60 if paid within 14 days.

Discounts on the charges are available for larger motorhomes and horse transporters that are classed as private HGVs.

Exemptions apply for certain vehicles including tractors, gritters, showman’s vehicles, recovery vehicles, “special” vehicles, emergency services, and while an upgraded vehicle is on order.

Liberal Democrat council leader Dine Romero said: "This is a landmark day for the city. We've put up with unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide for too long.

"This is unfair on residents, particularly vulnerable older people and children. We want to reduce NO2 pollution in Bath to within legal limits by the end of 2021 at the latest, and a charging clean air zone is the only way we can achieve this.

"We know this is a difficult time for businesses, but we've gone ahead with the zone during the pandemic because this is a pressing public health issue.

"However, we are working with residents and businesses to help them replace polluting vehicles with cleaner ones and there is significant financial and practical help available."

Dr Bruce Laurence, director of public health, added: "You can't see it and you can't smell it, but nitrogen dioxide is a hidden killer, contributing to as many as 36,000 early deaths in the UK each year.

"The high levels that we have in Bath can irritate and inflame our airways and this is particularly dangerous for people with asthma and lung conditions such as bronchitis and emphysema.

"Research has also shown that exposure to high levels of NO2 over a longer term can affect children's lung development.

"And there is evidence that children who grow up in highly polluted areas are more likely to develop asthma."

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