Bath already reaping benefits of Clean Air Zone as it marks first anniversary, says council

March 15, 2022

More than 800 polluting commercial vehicles have been taken off the road and replaced with ‘greener’ ones since Bath’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) was introduced a year ago.

A further 200 more replacements are currently on order under the scheme introduced by Bath & North East Somerset Council to help businesses upgrade their vehicles to comply with the CAZ.

In total, 1,500 vehicles, ranging from taxis, vans, buses and larger commercial vehicles, have been approved for grants and interest free finance by the council since the CAZ started on 15 March last year.

The first charging zone of its kind outside of London, it was brought in to urgently drive down high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in Bath city centre.

Since then, the CAZ – which does not charge private cars or motorbikes – has generated £5.3m in revenue for the council – all of which is being used to cover initial investment and future operating costs.

Once these are sufficiently funded, any surplus income would be allocated to support the council’s sustainable transport initiatives.  

The annual report on the CAZ will be published in July following analysis of the results by central government.

But, according to the council, a year on from its introduction it is working well in changing behaviours and improving air quality.  

More than 90% of HGVs, coaches, buses and taxis entering the zone are now compliant with the city’s minimum emission standards, which means they do not need to pay.

Van compliance rates have also improved, rising from 60% during the first month of the zone’s operation to more than 80%.

Around 41,000 vehicles use the roads in the zone every day. While most of cars, around 13% – 5,300 – are buses, taxis, vans or HGVs that must pay if they do not comply with emission charges.  

However, the percentage that have to do this halved from 4.5% at the time of the launch to just 1.5% – just over 600 vehicles – by February last month. 

Higher emission buses, coaches, HGVs and PHGVs (larger motorhomes and horse transporters) pay £100 a day while higher emission taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses and vans (including pick-ups, some campers and Land Rover 4 x 4s) pay £9 a day.

Data collected after the CAZ had been operating for six months suggests that NO2 pollution across Bath – not just within the zone – fell by 14% compared with the same period in 2019. This is despite traffic returning to normal and, at times, above historic levels as pandemic restrictions eased.

The council has supported this fleet change with its financial assistance scheme to help replace the city’s most polluting, chargeable vehicles with cleaner ones.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for climate and sustainable travel, Cllr Sarah Warren, pictured, said: “On the anniversary of Bath’s Clean Air Zone, we want to celebrate where we are in this journey, and say thank you to people for their support.

“This includes bus, freight and logistic companies, local business and taxi drivers who applied for funds to replace polluting vehicles.  

“We also want to thank residents who are consciously limiting short car journeys through the city, despite cars not being charged in the zone.

“The signs of improvement we see are heartening and important. Adapting to the zone has been hard, but we’re proud of the way that the city has got behind it.

“We’re not out of the woods yet – there is still room for improvement – but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

NO2 is extremely toxic – it cannot be seen or smelt but can contribute to fatal asthma attacks, make respiratory and heart problems worse and is associated with reduced lung development in children.

A recent study has also suggested that falling air pollution may help to fend off conditions such as dementia.

The CAZ forms part of the Liberal Democrat-controlled council’s Journey to Net Zero plan, which includes potentially introducing traffic cells to remove through-traffic from the city centre and a new mass transit system.


Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across the Bath area for just £75 a month. Email for more information.