A clean air zone (CAZ) defines an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and co-ordinated to deliver improved health benefits and support economic growth.
The Government expects CAZs to facilitate low emission take-up, involve councils and contractors displaying leadership in vehicle procurement, improve local emission standards for taxis, buses and private hire vehicles, and support healthy active travel by cycle and walking.
Its Clean Air Strategy identified a CAZ where drivers were charged if their vehicles did not meet stipulated environmental standards as the most effective way of improving air quality in as short a time as possible.
However, given the potential financial impacts on individuals and businesses of a charging CAZ, the document said equally effective alternative measures which avoid these impacts would be ‘preferred’, and so local authorities were told to consider such alternative measures.
“Local authorities and city councils know the critical role fleet movement and transport plays in the local communities but they have been handed a bit of a political time bomb in terms of the impact this is having on lives,” says Andrew Benfield, group director of transport at the Energy Saving Trust.
“They have got to think about issues like displacement: if they put a CAZ in, what happens to vehicles? Can they just go round it, so are they shifting vehicles round to somewhere?
“Just the issue of drawing a line around the area is a charged one.”
London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week within the same area as the current congestion charge zone.
The ULEZ standards are in addition to the congestion charge and the low emission zone requirements. The required ULEZ standards match those of the CAZs.
Benfield adds: “What is really key from a fleet perspective is that they need to know and get clarity on what is happening, when it is going to happen, and where the clean air zones are going to be, how long they are going to be in place for and when do they start.”