London’s low-emission zone is the most obvious air quality scheme in the UK at present, but there’s plenty more going on across the country.

The Government wants five other cities to submit plans to reduce local air pollution by 15 September 2018 and implement them by the beginning of 2020, while 23 others have been earmarked as having problems that need addressing (see panel, below right).

On top of that, 33 more are considering their approach, though the issues are not so critical, which emphasises the fact that there is plenty of regulation and change coming, and it will affect the fleet sector in many ways.

Although the majority of fleet vehicles will meet the latest Euro6 emissions regulation, businesses will have to counter issues around grey fleet and particularly cash-for-car expense claims, as well as light commercial vehicles that are generally run for longer terms, so could be older, while companies based inside the clean-air zones will have to be aware of the effect on staff, suppliers and clients visiting their sites.



Birmingham’s plans will be firmed up this month, after a consultation closed on 17 August, ahead of a January 2020 implementation. It is planning a clean-air zone running inside the A4540 middle ring road that would include the A38, even if drivers are passing through the city rather than stopping in it. As is the case with London, the zone will require drivers to pay a daily charge if their vehicles don’t meet the emissions status of Euro6 for diesel and Euro4 for petrol cars. All cars from 1 September 2015 will be Euro6, and anything after 1 January 2006 is Euro4. Any cars not meeting the requirements will be charged somewhere between £6.00-£12.50, with the council still debating the level of the fee, which will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Taxis will also be charged £12.50, and the fee for buses, coaches and HGVs will be between £50-£100 per day, with potential exceptions for emergency service vehicles.

Birmingham City Council is also looking at other moves to help air quality, including improved public transport, more electric vehicle charging points, more bus and cycle lanes and changes to parking charges to discourage people from driving.

The council is also proposing a sunset period for vehicles registered to SMEs that go into the zone at least twice a week, as well as consultancy help for organisations to review fleet vehicles and deliveries, and to help staff change travel habits.


ON THE LIST: The 23 under pressure

As well as the five cities required to submit comprehensive air quality plans, another 23 local authorities have until the end of 2018 to identify their preferred option for delivering compliance in the shortest possible time, setting out implementation arrangements and value for money considerations. They are the borough, city or metropolitan councils for the following areas:

Basildon, Bath and North East Somerset, Bolton, Bristol, Bury, Coventry, Fareham, Gateshead, Guildford, Manchester, Middlesbrough, New Forest, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Rochford, Rotherham, Rushmoor, Salford, Sheffield, Stockport, Surrey Heath, Tameside and Trafford.



Derby City Council Coat of ArmsThree proposals have been set out by Derby City Council, although the authority favours one that doesn’t include any charging; its preferred plan is option one, which is traffic management, especially around the problem area of Stafford Street, where particular air quality issues exist. There would also be targeted incentives for local residents to remove the most polluting vehicles through a scrappage scheme and a roll-out of more electric vehicle infrastructure, including incentives for delivery and service businesses, and helping companies to understand and adopt more low-emission vehicles.

But there are two other proposals, which take in the actions of option one, but add in a chargeable zone for HGVs, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles that don’t meet Euro6 diesel or Euro4 petrol standards. Option two has the zone from within the city’s inner ring road, and option three from within the outer one. Implementation will take place, according to the council, “by 2020”.



Leeds City Council Coat of ArmsThe final proposal for Leeds is due to be made public on 19 September, with approval expected to take up to eight weeks, and an implementation date of 1 January 2020.

The good news for fleets is that at present, the plan is that only buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles, taxis and private hire vehicles will be impacted, with the zone planned to operate inside of the city’s outer ring road.


Nottingham City Council Coat of ArmsThe East Midlands city has decided against an actual clean air zone, instead spending money to retro-fit 180 buses with clean-exhaust technology, and moving to make every taxi and private hire vehicle in the city low-emission. It anticipates these steps will bring NOx emissions below required levels. Nottingham City Council will also be replacing its own heavy vehicles with electric or other low-emissions vehicles, and is looking at extending Nottingham’s two Air Quality Management Areas to cover the whole city, as well as enforcing anti-idling legislation.



Southampton City Council Coat of ArmsLike Leeds, Southampton is looking at a Class B clean air zone, which means buses, coaches, HGVs and taxi and private hire vehicles that don’t conform to Euro6 emissions standards if they are diesel, and Euro4 for petrol vehicles. The zone follows the Southampton City Boundary, which is south of the M27 motorway.

The New Forest District Council is included in the wider list of authorities needing to address air quality (see panel), but the Southampton consultation said it expects that the measures introduced will also bring air quality under required limits in the New Forest.


Paul Barker