Councils seek local feedback on Clean Air Zones
Councils are in the process of consulting on Clean Air Zones (CAZs) as part of their strategy to reduce roadside emissions of nitrogen dioxide to comply with requirements set out in the Government’s Improving air quality: national plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities.
For Leeds City Council, as one of the five local authorities (together with Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton) proposed to introduce a CAZ, this is the second consultation, with a revised proposal prepared in response to business pressures and renewed modelling, which showed that a smaller zone to the one first outlined will still deliver the required air quality improvements.
The revised proposal also sees a reduction in charges from £100 to £50 per day for buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). The charge for non-compliant taxis and private hire vehicles will be £12.50, in line with the charges planned for London’s Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs). Birmingham City Council is also in the process of consulting on a scheme, which will extend to all types of vehicle, including cars, and Derby City Council is consulting on options for improving air quality around the Stafford Street area of the city centre. The City Council has indicated that it would prefer not to introduce a charging CAZ, instead focusing on a range of traffic management measures, a targeted clean air incentive scheme and low-emission incentives, excluding charging. However, two charging options are included in the consultation: one for a charging zone within the inner ring road and one within the outer ring road.
CAZs will be managed by cameras monitoring all vehicles entering the defined area. Checks will be made to see whether the vehicle meets the zone’s emission standard, or whether a charge applies. Appeals against road-user charging penalties issued for failing to pay the required charge will be handled by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
CAZ signage and communication: A key consideration
A minimum requirement stipulated by the Government for setting up a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is to ‘have in place signs along major access routes to clearly delineate the zone.’ The Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) has issued guidance, Signs and Road Markings for Charging Clean Air Zones, which includes four symbols (see above) to denote four classes of CAZ:
A: Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles.
B: As above, plus HGVs.
C: As above, plus light goods vehicles.
D: As above, plus cars.
Experience from Tribunal appeals in respect of road-user charging schemes at both the Dartford-Thurrock River and Mersey Gateway Bridge Crossings has shown that there are lessons that can be learned for the new CAZ schemes. A key consideration for charging authorities is communicating effectively to motorists that there is a requirement to pay online within a set period of time, even when they are busy navigating around what may be an unfamiliar town or city.
The five initially proposed locations are required to have their plans finalised, including whether this will include a charging scheme, by the end of 2018, for implementation by the end of 2019.
A second wave of 23 English local authorities are expected to have their final plans submitted to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by December 2018.
In July 2018 Defra then directed a further 33 local authorities to carry out studies on reducing nitrogen dioxide air pollution in their areas.
The studies should identify what measures can be taken to reduce such pollution in their areas in the shortest time possible. These authorities were instructed to submit their findings to the Government by 31 July 2018. The Government will then consider the results and publish a supplement to its nitrogen dioxide plans in October 2018.
Other major city authorities are also considering ways to improve air quality, including Bristol City Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council. A further consultation was launched in relation to air pollution in the round,
including transport, industry and farming. Find out more here.
PATROL and the Traffic Penalty Tribunal are liaising with Defra and local authorities as local plans develop. The Welsh Government has also consulted on A Clean Air Zone Framework for Wales. The results of this consultation are due to be published in the near future.