London-style Clean Air Zones could be forced through more widely and sooner

The Government has lost a court action that could lead to a speeding-up of plans to tackle air pollution.

London’s proposals to clean up its air – that include charging motorcycles older than June 2007 £12.50 to enter the majority of the city – could be rolled out sooner than expected on a national basis.

Currently, London is the only UK city that has implemented any form of Clean Air Zone, with the city-wide Low Emission Zone and the central London Toxic Charge Zone already in place.

However, five cities – Southampton, Derby, Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham – and 23 other local authority areas have also been told by the Government to have pollution reducing initiatives operating by at least 2021. A further 22 areas are known to be required by EU law to meet the prescribed targets but have been identified by the Government as ‘unlikely’ meet directives before 2021.

But, in a court case brought by ClientEarth, a group of activist lawyers, the Government may have to increase the number of authorities included in their immediate plans and for plans to be brought forward, with some urgency.


Today in the High Court, Mr Justice Garnham ruled the Government’s current plans were “unlawful” and that more urgent action is needed in up to 45 English local authority areas that had already been identified by the Government. “Because the obligation is zone-specific, the fact that each of the 45 local authority areas will achieve compliance in any event by 2021 is of no immediate significance.”

He continued, “The Environment Secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely,” he said.

“In effect, these local authorities are being urged and encouraged to come up with proposals to improve air quality over the next three years, but are not being required to do so,” he added, before continuing, “In my judgment, that sort of exhortation is not sufficient.”

Of the five cities named by the Government to implement policies, only Nottingham and Leeds have so far given any detail about which vehicles will be included in their Clean Air Zones. Neither has currently included motorcycles in the list of vehicles that are likely to pay to enter the zones, but pre-Euro 3 bikes could be included if the court ruling leads to more aggressive policies, as has happened in London.


Controversially, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have not only included pre-2007 motorcycles in their Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which will cover the whole of London inside the North and South Circular ring roads, their Mayor’s Transport Strategy also favours a reduction in the use of all powered two-wheelers except those used for commercial deliveries – pizza bikes.

Motorcycle campaigners, including the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and We Ride London have been campaigning to have motorcycles removed from the ULEZ plans, as motorcycles make an overall positive contribution to lowering pollution.

Get yourself sorted:

London’s plans are likely to influence the local authorities now forced to clean-up their local air. Even if you are not a regular motorcyclist in London, you can have your say in TfL’s air quality consultation using this link:


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