Air pollution and Covid-19: clean air zones postponed across the UK

Air pollution and Covid-19: clean air zones postponed across the UK

Clean Air Zone Update – May 2020

In an effort to help businesses and residents manage the impact of coronavirus, the Government announced last month that it is now working with local authorities to delay the implementation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) across the country.

This year, CAZs were due to be implemented in Birmingham, Leeds and Bath, but the latest news from central government suggests that these will be delayed until at least January 2021.

Understandably, these delays are necessary to ease the travel of key workers such as NHS staff and essential deliveries, as well as allow officials to focus on tackling Covid-19 during these challenging times.

Although it was previously thought that emissions were responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the UK every year, new figures published by the European Heart Journal suggest that the actual number is closer to 64,000.

Clean Air Zones (CAZs) have been identified as the quickest way to clean up illegal levels of air pollution and the Government  is committed to keeping the announced delay to CAZs as short as possible in order to protect public health.

To help keep you up-to-date with the latest information regarding the implementation of Clean Air Zones across the UK, below are updated details of when these air pollution control measures are now expected to be implemented in the individual cities.

Bath’s Clean Air Zone was due to go live in November this year but it will now be delayed until at least January 2021.

The proposed zone does not affect private cars.

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone was expected to come into force on 1st July 2020 but due to the Coronavirus outbreak, has now been pushed back until at least January 2021, to allow businesses and residents time to adjust to the ongoing pandemic.

Since lockdown the city has experienced a 70 per cent drop in transport and that has had a massive impact in reducing nitrous oxide levels in the city.

The Council are keen to introduce the Clean Air Zone as soon as is feasible, particularly since the significant drop in air pollution in recent weeks has shown what the city has got to look forward to.

The air pollution measures – to include a city centre diesel vehicle ban and charging clean air zone – were due to take effect from April 2021, but following the announcement from the Government, this will now be delayed to an as yet unconfirmed date.  The diesel vehicle ban has not been given the go-ahead.

Coventry City Council has extended its consultation (which started in March this year) on ways to cut emissions levels in the city without needing to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone.  The consultation, which was due to end on 26 April has now been extended, due to Covid-19 restrictions, to enable people to respond.

Originally due to be rolled out from 28 September 2020, Leeds is one of the Clean Air Zones which has now been suspended by the Government until at least January 2021 due to the impact of the pandemic.

Transport for London temporarily suspended the current Low Emission Zone, Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to help our critical workers get to work and for essential deliveries to take place. These zones were re-instated at the beginning of this week (18th May 2020).

They also announced that the new rules for freight vehicles entering the capital’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) along with the Direct Vision Standard, which were set to come into force in October this year, have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) across Greater Manchester in 2021 have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A public consultation on the long-delayed proposals, which would charge the most polluting vehicles using the region’s roads, was planned this summer with the view of coming into force in 2021.

But the exercise has been postponed until the lockdown is lifted and the impact of Covid-19 on the local economy is better understood.

In Oxford, 75% of nitrogen dioxide comes from transport and, with roads clear of congestion during the lockdown restrictions, the city centre has seen a historic 59% drop in toxic air pollution.

Oxford City Council is keen to maintain the historic reduction in air pollution after the lockdown eases, and is currently in discussions with Oxfordshire County Council, the transport authority, to achieve this by voluntarily introducing a Zero Emission Zone as soon as is feasibly possible after the country starts moving again.

The new scheme was due to begin in December 2020 but has now been postponed in recognition that businesses and residents across the city, and particular in the Red Zone, need to focus their attention on managing the current and potential impacts on their trade and way of life during the coronavirus pandemic

Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee will not get Low Emission Zones (LEZs) this year, after the Scottish government put the plans on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The schemes were due to come into force before the end of 2020, but transport secretary Michael Matheson has said that the plans ‘are no longer practicable’ in the current environment.

The Scottish government remains dedicated to introducing Low Emission Zones across Scotland’s four biggest cities to improve air quality and protect public health and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) planning within local authorities will continue.

In light of the revised figures for the amount of deaths caused by the illegal air pollution levels in the UK, once the country starts moving again it will be even more critical that the measures necessary to deliver urgent and lasting improvements to air quality are put in place as soon as possible, in order to protect public health.

It is important that the preparatory work continues as much as possible, so that we can all look forward to breathing cleaner air in the UK.