Clean Air Zone FAQs

Creating a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is the government’s preferred approach to addressing air pollution in the shortest possible time for a number of cities across the UK.

In Portsmouth, our Clean Air Zone must be live before the end of 2021 so it was launched 29 November.

Read our frequently asked questions below for more information.

What is a charging Clean Air Zone?

A charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an identified area where the oldest, most polluting vehicles are issued a daily charge if they enter the zone. It works in a similar way to the low emission zone in London.

There are two categories of Clean Air Zones: non-charging and charging. Central government requires us to implement a charging Clean Air Zone in Portsmouth.

Why does Portsmouth need a CAZ?

Portsmouth City Council was identified by central government as one of over 60 local authorities that had air pollution levels in excess of legal limits. As such, we’ve been told to make an improvement as soon as possible.

Our technical work shows that a package of non-charging measures, even with the natural reduction in polluting vehicles over time, will still not be enough to achieve the necessary level of improvement in air quality. Therefore central government requires us to implement a charging Clean Air Zone.

Why was I asked for my views when we are required by government to implement a CAZ?

Your feedback informed specific aspects of the zone design, including the proposed charges, zone operating times, vehicle exclusions and support packages for those most negatively impacted, as well as how we can encourage more people to travel sustainably.

However, there are certain things that we are unable to change. These include the type of vehicles charged and the size of the zone. There was also a restriction on any changes that we implement – these cannot negatively impact the compliance date.

When will the CAZ start in Portsmouth?

The CAZ was launched 29 November 2021. Cameras and signs were installed on the main roads into the city centre before then.

Will I have to pay a charge?

It depends which vehicle you drive. Only buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and heavy goods vehicles that are older than Euro 6 if diesel, and Euro 4 if petrol, will be charged.

Newer, cleaner vehicles and personal cars and vans will not be charged, and there are also some specific vehicle exemptions.

But you can still help improve air quality in the city by reducing the number of journeys you make, choosing to travel more actively by walking, cycling or scooting, and switching your engine off when stopped.

If you’re not sure what Euro standard your vehicle is, please check your vehicle log book or contact your vehicle manufacturer directly.

Are there any exemptions?

Some drivers and operators of specific vehicles may not need to pay to drive in the Portsmouth Clean Air Zone (CAZ). These are known as exemptions, and there are both national and local exemptions.

In Portsmouth, there are also some exemptions for some specialist vehicles. You may also be able to apply for a ‘sunset period’. This allows you more time to upgrade or retrofit your non-compliant vehicle before having to pay the CAZ charge. You’ll need to apply for local exemptions and sunset periods.

How much will the charge be?

The charge will be £10 a day for non-compliant taxis and Private Hire Vehicles, and £50 a day for HGVs, buses and coaches.

The charge won’t be issued automatically, so you’ll need to be aware if your vehicle is subject to the charge and make payment within the payment window. You won’t receive a notification or reminder to inform you that you’ve driven through the zone in a non-compliant vehicle and need to make payment.

You will only be charged once per day no matter how many trips into the zone you make.

Will you be charging vans or cars?

There are no current plans to charge private cars or vans, as government has approved our plans for a charging Class B CAZ.

Previously, due to the uncertainty brought about by coronavirus, central government indicated they may require the charging of vans in future to meet air quality objectives. We asked van drivers their opinion as part of our consultation, to help us bid for funding to support those affected by the charge.

What are the different classes of Clean Air Zones?

There are four classes of Clean Air Zone:

  • Class A: buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles
  • Class B: buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and HGVs
  • Class C: buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses, HGVs and LGVs
  • Class D: buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses, HGVs, LGVs and cars

You can find out more about the different classes on the government’s website.

Why do we still need a CAZ if air pollution reduced during lockdown?

We have seen a temporary reduction in nitrogen dioxide whilst there were fewer vehicles on the road during 2020. However, as traffic levels increase again, so does air pollution.

With such uncertainty about the longer term impacts lockdowns have had on travel behaviour and the economy, we must continue with our plans to introduce a charging CAZ to ensure we achieve legal limits for nitrogen dioxide by the end of 2022.

What can I do if I can’t afford the charge?

We appreciate that these changes come at a challenging time, so we want to help those most affected by the CAZ charges. You may be able to get help from the Clean Air Fund if you’re directly impacted by the CAZ. This includes people who operate non-compliant:

  • taxis or private hire vehicles
  • buses or coaches
  • HGVs, whether as a freight business or delivering to local businesses within the CAZ

If your business replaces or upgrades non-compliant vehicles with cleaner, greener ones, you’ll avoid the daily charge. We’ll also have fewer polluting vehicles in the city.

What else is Portsmouth City Council doing to improve air quality?

The charging CAZ is only one small part of the work we are undertaking to tackle air pollution and climate change in the city.

We are providing more Electric Vehicle (EV) charge points, reviewing taxi licensing rules to encourage cleaner taxis and private hire vehicles in the city, using the parking permits fee to encourage low emission vehicles, and discourage multiple car ownership, and we are changing parking capacity and pricing, including expanding the Park and Ride. We have also retrofitted over 100 local buses so they meet cleaner Euro 6 standards.

We are working across the council to improve air quality. In support of addressing the specific challenge of air pollution in Portsmouth, the draft Local Transport Plan focuses on changes we can make within the city to create cleaner, greener safer travel in Portsmouth.

This is supported by the draft Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan that aims to create continuous cycling and walking routes that more people want to use for travelling around the city. You can find out more about these plans in the other sections of this website.

Why are private cars not being charged?

The different vehicles charged in the CAZ are set out in the Government’s Clean Air Zone Framework. This framework sets four classes on Clean Air Zones ranging from A-D, with A being the least stringent and D being most stringent (including all vehicle types).

Our modelling shows that a Class B CAZ is likely to be sufficient in reducing air pollution in the shortest possible time. Therefore central government has confirmed that they will not provide funding for a CAZ D that would charge cars.

Will traffic increase in other parts of the city?

We’ve known this zone was coming and have been working with local affected vehicles to help them become compliant, meaning that they will not be charged to drive through the zone and won’t need to reroute.

Is CAZ all about funding?

The government told us to create the CAZ because of harmful levels of air pollution in Portsmouth. Any revenue will be put straight back into improving sustainable and active travel in the city.

Will HGVs be able to deliver food or goods?

The Clean Air Fund has already supported HGVs and affected businesses that regularly travel in the zone to become compliant. These HGVs therefore shouldn’t need to pay the charge and can continue business as usual.

Why is Portsmouth International Port outside of the CAZ?

Extensive modelling has been undertaken out to ensure that the area covered by the Clean Air Zone has the biggest impact on improving air quality in Portsmouth. This has shown that the majority of the traffic travelling to and from the port arrives and departs from the north of the city, and therefore is not travelling through the two identified air pollution hotspots in the city centre.

The port itself is governed by different government regulations on air quality, and have their own extensive plan that will see them become net carbon neutral by 2030, and zero-emission by 2050. Find out more at portsmouth-port.co.uk.