Price reductions on selected cars, from £250 - £1000 off

skip to main contentskip to footer

Clean Air Zones outside of London you might not have heard of

London's ULEZ is on everyone's lips, but Clean Air Zones are already in place across the UK and in Europe, with more currently being planned


With the upcoming expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to include all London boroughs coming later this summer (29 August 2023), the subject is on everybody’s lips in the capital.

The aim is, of course, to further improve the quality of air, which will have a positive impact on both Londoners’ health and the environmental well-being of their surroundings.

As things stand, the level of harmful nitrogen dioxide in the air within the zone is 20% lower than what it would have been without the ULEZ.

This suggests the scheme is contributing towards creating a less-polluted city for all.

However, London isn’t the only city in the world to have clean-air policies in place.

In fact, many other cities have been earmarked for similar schemes – or have them in place already – to cut down on pollution levels.

A map showing the expanded ULEZ area in London

Clean Air Zones in the UK

Like the ULEZ, Clean Air Zones (CAZs) have been introduced in major cities across the UK to reduce traffic emissions.

cinch motoring editor Sam Sheehan explained: “In short, there are two types of Clean Air Zones.

“Some CAZs are non-charging, meaning their goal is to enhance air quality without charging vehicles driving within the zone.

"These areas have different measures to keep emission levels in check, from retrofitting specific vehicles with pollution controls to rerouting traffic.

“Other CAZs in the UK, however, are charging zones. In this case, you will be charged a fee to enter the zone if you’re at the wheel of a vehicle that doesn’t meet its environmental standards.

“Bear in mind that electric cars and some hybrid models are likely to be exempt from charges, as they match the CAZ requirements.

"But in cities such as Bath and Portsmouth, all private cars can pass freely through the zone, as the regulations tend to apply to specific and larger vehicles only.”

According to the government’s website, the UK cities that feature operating Clean Air Zones are:

Bath – This scheme was launched in March 2021. The zone only covers Bath city centre, but the air quality seems to have improved gradually across the entirety of the city

Birmingham – This CAZ is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It includes a significant portion of Birmingham city centre within the A4540 Middleway

Bradford – The Bradford CAZ covers the area within the Bradford outer ring road. Since its introduction in September 2022, it has encouraged motorists to drive cleaner cars, and the city has now one of the cleanest taxi fleets in the UK

Bristol – Bristol’s Clean Air Zone was launched in November 2022 to create a healthier and more natural environment across the city. It’s in operation 24 hours a day and covers a large chunk of the city centre

Greater Manchester (under review) – In February 2022, in the wake of a huge public backlash, the brakes were slammed on Greater Manchester’s CAZ scheme. However, the plans are still under review, so things might change in the not-so-distant future.

Portsmouth – Introduced in November 2021, the Portsmouth CAZ has seen around two million vehicles enter the area in the space of one year. Campaigners are now calling for an expansion of its borders, meaning the CAZ could also include the outer neighbourhoods of the city

Sheffield – The Sheffield CAZ went live in February 2023, covering the city centre and the inner ring toad. Its rules don’t apply to private cars and motorcycles, but all other (polluting) vehicles driving within the area are charged

Tyneside - Newcastle and Gateshead – The Newcastle and Gateshead CAZ was introduced in January 2023. It includes some of the busiest routes in town, including the Tyne Bridge and High Level Bridge

Other councils across the country have been considering introducing CAZs in their city centre, but plans have either been delayed or scrapped altogether for a number of reasons.

For example, Nottingham was the very first council to get the green light from the government for an emission-free area. The creation of a CAZ never went ahead, however, as existing measures to tackle high-pollution levels were enough to remain below the legal limit.

As of 1 June 2023, Glasgow has enforced a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) within the city centre to help protect public health. Drivers entering the LEZ with a non-compliant car will be fined around £60.

Only emergency vehicles, blue-badge holders, mopeds and motorbikes will continue to be exempt from charges, while locals living in the zone have one year to comply with the area’s new regulations.

a red cupra leon estate driving on a country road in britain

What about the rest of the world?

UK cities aren’t the only places on a mission to minimise pollution levels and reduce the harmful impact of traffic emissions on residents and the environment.

Plenty of locations around the globe have implemented CAZs. If you're off on a road trip abroad, make sure to drive or rent a low-polluting vehicle if you plan to visit one of the following cities:

Paris – The French Clean Air Act (CRIT’Air) for Paris applies to all areas inside the Boulevard Périphérique motorway ring. To drive within the zone, you need a windscreen sticker that identifies your car’s air-pollutant emissions. If you don’t have one, you could receive an on-the-spot fine of up to €135

Madrid – The beautiful Spanish capital has a protocol for high pollution that covers both traffic and parking. The Madrid 360 scheme was officially put in place in 2022 to improve environmental protection in the city’s 21 districts

Milan – Milan has various vehicle-access restrictions, including Area C, which is active from Monday to Friday. Electric cars, hybrids, motorcycles and mopeds can access this zone for free, while other vehicles have to buy a pass to enter the area.

Tokyo – If you’re visiting Japan and opt for a drive in its capital’s city centre, make sure your car adheres to its low-emission regulations. Tokyo doesn’t have a specific CAZ as such, but it has many measures in place to reduce air pollution and promote the use of electric vehicles.

Other major cities that feature anti-polluting zones include Athens, Stockholm, Beijing and Mexico City.

So, ahead of your next road trip, whether in the UK or elsewhere, do your research to avoid hefty fines.

More importantly, though, you’ll play an important part in improving air quality in cities across the globe.

Read more about ULEZ: