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Bath’s Clean Air Zone is set to launch on Monday 15 March 2021 as the first charging clean air zone in England outside of London. It will not charge private cars.

The Clean Air Zone was due to be switched on in November but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bath & North East Somerset Council considered air quality, traffic levels and the impacts of COVID-19 on local businesses and the economy, before agreeing the new start date with the government.

It means Bath will be the first city in England to launch a charging CAZ outside London, which has a similar ultra-low emission zone. However, the date will be monitored to account for any significant developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council is currently contacting more than 9,000 local businesses to help them establish whether charges will apply to their vehicles, and how to access the support on offer.

Drivers affected by charges are also advised to check the council’s website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ for a list of local exemptions and whether they might be eligible for financial support to upgrade their vehicle or fleet.

The financial support scheme aims to support people regularly affected by charges with grants and interest-free finance to help them upgrade to compliant vehicles. Local businesses and individuals, including those in neighbouring authorities that have premises and/or regularly drive in the zone, can apply.

For example, eligible van drivers could stand to receive up to £4,500 in grants, plus interest-free finance, to help them upgrade to a similar, compliant vehicle. Larger grants are available of up to £20,000 for HGVs and £35,000 for buses and coaches.

In light of COVID-19, the council has amended the scheme so that if eligible businesses fail their initial credit check, they can re-apply once their finances have improved. In addition, these drivers would be able to apply for exemptions on their non-compliant vehicles for up to two years.

There are also a wide range of exemptions available for hard-to-replace or special vehicles, and to support disadvantaged groups and vital services in the city.

Discounts are also available for drivers of larger, higher emission motorhomes and horse-transporters (private heavy goods vehicles) who can pay £9 instead of £100 provided they register with the council. Applications for all local exemptions and discounted vehicles will open in November.

Councillor Dine Romero, council leader, said: “In 2017 the government directed us to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the city in the shortest possible time. Technical work showed that a charging zone was the only measure that could achieve compliance in the time frame we were given.

“The council consulted widely on this and agreed to introduce a class C charging CAZ with traffic management at Queen Square, charging all higher emission vehicles, except private cars and motorcycles, to drive in Bath’s city centre.

“However, there is no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses and this will be an additional cost that they have to consider. We have worked hard to secure a considerable package of financial and other support to help business owners and I would urge them to get in touch, talk to us and find out how we can help.

“We all want clean air and the zone is a step towards our wider ambitions for Bath and North East Somerset to address air quality and tackle the climate emergency.”

Councillor Sarah Warren, joint cabinet member for Climate Emergency, added; “It is timely that we are able to make this announcement on Clean Air Day. Traffic and pollution levels reduced during lockdown, but they are rising again in the city centre. We must address this, and our deadline to improve air quality and reduce NO2 levels to within legal limits remains 2021.

“Tackling pollution is a priority for us if we’re to improve people’s lives and address the climate emergency. The CAZ will improve air quality, but we also need to tackle the other problems arising from traffic, and these will be tackled in our plans for Liveable Neighbourhoods.”

The clean air zone will operate in the city centre 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Charges will apply to pre-euro 6/VI diesel and pre-euro 4 petrol vehicles, except private cars and motorbikes.

Higher emission taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses, LGVs and vans (including pick-ups and campervans) will be charged £9 a day while higher emission buses, coaches and HGVs will be charged £100 a day.

The council is now urging residents and businesses to check their vehicles to see if they’ll be charged.

Drivers can do this using the government’s central CAZ service at www.gov.uk/cleanairzone. All they need is their vehicle registration number. A central CAZ support service is also available on 0300 029 8888 to assist those with any questions on their vehicle’s compliance.

Drivers affected by charges are also advised to check the council’s website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ for a list of local exemptions and whether they might be eligible for financial support to upgrade their vehicle or fleet.

The council secured a total funding package of £23.452m to implement the scheme and provide supporting measures, such as the financial assistance scheme.

This is made up of £18.381m of capital funding, comprising £7.094m for implementation of the scheme and £11.287m for supporting measures.

This total funding award aligns with the earlier settlements received by both Leeds and Birmingham.

Full information on Bath’s clean air zone, including charges, a map of the zone, exemptions and financial support can be found at www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathCAZ

Press release by Bath & North East Somerset Council.

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