The zone is now in place, but private motorists are not being charged.

Bath has become the first UK city outside London to implement a clean air zone, which charges vehicles deemed more polluting to drive in the city centre. Unlike the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) system in operation in the middle of London, however, Bath’s scheme does not charge private cars.

Under the terms of the clean air zone (CAZ), drivers of pre-Euro 6 diesel or pre-Euro 4 petrol vans, taxis or minibuses will be charged £9 a day to enter the zone. Drivers of heavy goods vehicles and buses that fail to meet those criteria, meanwhile, will be charged £100 a day, although privately owned HGVs such as horseboxes and motorhomes will only be charged £9 a day if they are registered with the council.

Car parking along the road beside resident houses in Bath UK

Drivers of private cars and motorcycles do not have to pay to enter the city centre, regardless of whether they meet the Euro 4 or Euro 6 emissions standards. The CAZ will be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is enforced by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology.

According to Bath and North East Somerset Council, the scheme is “designed to tackle Bath’s air pollution problem”, which the council claims is “chiefly caused by vehicle emissions”. It is hoped the CAZ, which is funded by central government, will cut nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution to legal levels by the close of 2021.

Cyclist and traffic pass through Victoria Park Bath UK

“This is a landmark day for the city,” said Councillor Dine Romero, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council. “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.”

And Dr Bruce Laurence, the director of public health in Bath and North East Somerset, said the city’s air was particularly dangerous for people with asthma and lung conditions.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Street traffic in Bath UK