The Clean Air Zone became operational this morning. Here Cllr Douglas Johnson explains 20 important things you need to know about it.

1.     The Clean Air Zone charges for buses, HGVs and vans come into force on Monday 27th February.  The CAZ has been several years in the making and was formally approved in principle by the (Labour & Green) Co-operative Executive in October 2021.

2.     Sheffield Green Party has campaigned for action on air pollution for many years. Air pollution contributes to premature deaths and chronic respiratory illness every year in Sheffield.    We often quoted the figure of 500 early deaths a year.  Due to progress in vehicle emissions over several years, this is more likely to be in the region of about 360 early deaths every year in Sheffield.  It is still a public health issue. It especially affects children, whose lungs are still developing.

3.     The CAZ is a legal requirement because of the government’s failure to address illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide.  It is not about carbon emissions or pollution from particulate matter but is in line with reducing these too.

4.     The aim of the CAZ is to incentivise upgrading polluting vehicles.  There is a carrot – millions of pounds in grants for businesses – and a stick – charges for vehicles which pollute.

5.     The CAZ does not include charging private cars, motorbikes or SUVs.  Sheffield Green Party argued that the council should at least have included a proposal to charge cars  when consulting on it in 2018.  There is no prospect now of charging cars under the CAZ.

6.     You can check online if your vehicle is liable to the CAZ charge. The vehicle checker is at

7.     Most buses have been retrofitted and will not be subject to the charge.  The council obtained grants to upgrade 292 buses and there was enough left over to do another 16. This means fares will not increase because of the CAZ.

8.     Many HGVs and vans will not have to pay the charge. All Diesel vehicles manufactured since September 2016 will be Euro 6 standard and will comply. All petrol vehicles manufactured since 2006 will also comply.

9.     Black taxis (Hackney carriages) will not be charged until June.

10.  Drivers of older, polluting vans or private-hire taxis can apply for an exemption until June. This is at no cost, so it makes sense to do.

11.  There are millions of pounds available in grants for businesses to upgrade vehicles. grants to contribute towards the cost are typically £4,500 towards a van, £6,000 towards a hackney cab and £3,500 towards a private-hire taxi.

12.  So far, over 2,500 grant applications are being processed.  Drivers will be exempt from any charges until their application is decided. So, it makes sense to apply.

13.  There is going to be a scheme for retrospective grants. This will help anyone who upgraded their vehicle since October 2021. This isn’t live yet but is worth being aware of.

14.  If you have to pay charges, you have to go online to the government website.  You can pay the charge 6 days before or after your date of travel. Part of the reason is another incentive for businesses to upgrade to less polluting vehicles.

15.  Enforcement is by cameras on the inner ring road. This will be with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

16.  The Inner Ring road has been chosen because Sheffield’s geography means it controls the city’s road system.  This is important so that the benefits of the scheme are felt in all areas of the city, not just the centre. Tackling air pollution is an equality issue. Without the ring road being included, the air pollution would not be brought back within legal limits soon enough.

17.  There is a risk of van drivers trying to rat-run through residential streets to avoid charges. However, these may not be economical for businesses in terms of extra fuel or time taken.  The Star published an article promoting all the rat-runs they could find but this just makes it clear they aren’t going to be very effective except for a very small number of destinations.

18.  There are bound to be some teething issues as the system goes live.

19. The CAZ won’t be making a profit. The charges from the CAZ will pay for the cost of operating the system – it creates several new jobs for people – and any surplus will go back into more air pollution measures.

20. Full details of the CAZ scheme are available at

Cllr Douglas Johnson speaking in council
Cllr Douglas Johnson speaking in council

This article first appeared in Yorkshire By-lines

Sheffield’s clean air zone (CAZ) finally comes into force on 27 February 2023, after many years of government and council delay.

When the Greens first became part of the Sheffield City Council administration in May 2021, I was the executive member of climate change, environment and transport. One of my most pleasing moments was to see the council finally make a firm decision on introducing the CAZ in October 2021.

Why take action

Tackling air pollution is important: it contributes to an estimated 500 people dying early every year in Sheffield. In the long term, children are most affected by air pollution whilst their lungs are developing.

Air pollution remains at illegal, not just unsafe, levels in many parts of Sheffield, especially in the city centre where car ownership is at its lowest. Motor traffic is a principal source of nitrogen dioxide, the pollutant that is the target of clean air zones. Therefore, the national approach is to target old and polluting vehicles.

The UK government was dragged through the courts kicking and screaming over many years before it accepted it had to act in the face of illegal measures of pollution. It did so by ordering a number of cities with the worst pollution to implement clean air zones. They are now up and running in Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath, Bradford, Newcastle and Gateshead. Leeds decided to introduce a CAZ in principle but achieved legal levels of pollution without needing to charge vehicles. Manchester was on track to deliver a CAZ but has failed to do so under political pressure.

Design of the clean air zone

As one bus service manager said to me recently, it’s a crazy scheme that charges public transport but not the increasing number of massive SUVs we see on the city’s roads.

Unfortunately, the framework is tightly controlled by central government. All the same, it was disappointing that Sheffield Council’s previous administration announced it would not charge private cars under any circumstances. Green councillors said we should at least have consulted on the possibility of charging private cars which make unnecessary journeys.

However, one small intervention is designed to reduce the number of cars in the city centre. Councillors voted for a new bus gate on Arundel Gate, to reduce the amount of through traffic in an area of the highest concentrations of pollution. This will also offer advantages to smooth running of buses.

Grants for local business

With the government mandate comes millions of pounds for businesses to upgrade vehicles. This is a very welcome chance to put more support towards small businesses and self-employed taxi drivers. All vehicles need replacing sooner or later. Taxi and van drivers can now apply for grants so they avoid the clean air charge.

Grants have also paid for buses to be retrofitted to make them cleaner. Some 292 Sheffield buses have been treated so far and there is enough money to treat a further 16 vehicles. This means that none of the Sheffield bus fleet, barring exceptions, will be liable for the clean air charge. Fares will not go up because of the CAZ.

Road sign saying 'Low Emission Zone'
‘Low Emission Zone’ sign.

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles will not be charged. However, the council has dropped the very demanding requirement that taxis would have to be electric to avoid the charge, in favour of a much more achievable Euro 6 Diesel standard, which includes any vehicle manufactured since 2016. Petrol vehicles manufactured since 2006 will meet the Euro 4 standard and will be exempt. This dealt with many of the genuine anxieties held by taxi drivers.

The inner ring road

The clean air charge applies to vehicles inside or on the inner ring road. Some people have said the ring road itself should be exempt, but this is to miss the point about reducing pollution across the whole city.

The geography of Sheffield means that the inner ring road gathers in almost all traffic trying to cross the city. The ring road is effective as a defined location to identify and enforce the charge with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). By covering a larger number of vehicles, the CAZ will have more effect on vehicles – and therefore pollution levels – across the city. It also widens access to grants for a greater range of businesses.


Some opponents of the scheme have argued that pollution will be pushed into residential areas around the city. Whilst there will be a small degree of displacement, it will be limited because it doesn’t apply to buses (on fixed routes), taxis (bound to have to travel through the city centre at some point of the day), private cars (not charged at all), any goods vehicles delivering to the city centre, any distribution vehicle where time is of the essence, exempt vehicles or any vehicle newer than seven years old.

As more polluting vehicles come off the roads, the charges paid will dwindle. In the meantime, the receipts will fund the system and any surplus will go to further air quality improvements. The CAZ is a step change in the ongoing process of cleaning up the air.

The future

Of course, this is not the end. The CAZ aims to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, measured as an annual average of 40µg/m3 of nitrogen dioxide. However, the World Health Organization’s new guidelines now recognise levels of 10µg/m3 as harmful. We need to keep on improving our air quality and our health.

More information on the clean air zone, exemptions, charges and grants is available here.

Christine GilliganGreens on Sheffield City Council have welcomed the launch of grants to help individuals and businesses upgrade their vehicles to make them compliant with the Clean Air Zone due to come into force on 27th February. There will be exemptions for Hackney Carriages and Light Goods Vehicles registered in the Sheffield area up until the 5th of June 2023. These vehicles will have nearly 6 months to apply for a grant to change their vehicles to cleaner models to be compliant with the Clean Air Zone. Private cars are exempt from the charge.

A range of grants are available from £2000 to £16000 depending on the type of vehicle being replaced or upgraded to a less polluting model. Full details are on the Council’s website (1)

Councillor Christine Gilligan, Green Spokesperson on the Transport, Environment and Climate Committee said,

“I am really pleased that the Clean Air Zone is finally coming to Sheffield, as Green Councillors have played a key role on the Council in championing the scheme, for the health of local people and our local environment. The grants to support local businesses and other vehicle owners eligible for the charge are very welcome and will ease the transition to a cleaner city.”

“It is about reducing emissions from polluting vehicles, but it is also about saving lives. Respiratory illnesses are well documented in our city, with over 500 deaths per year attributed to poor air quality and its impact on a range of conditions (2). Young children with developing respiratory systems and frail, elderly people are particularly vulnerable to polluted air. This is why Greens have pressed hard against attempts to delay the introduction of the Clean Air Zone.”


1 –

2 – More information about the Clean Air Zone | Sheffield City Council

Cllr Paul Turpin with Green Party leader Sian Berry at the Inner Ring Road
Cllr Paul Turpin with Green Party leader Sian Berry at the Inner Ring Road

Councillor Paul Turpin writes ….

Sheffield City Council announced a pause on plans for the citywide Clean Air Zone (CAZ) citing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore little was done to support Clean Air Day locally on the 8th of October. While it is important that we make room and adapt to our ‘new normal’, the lockdown must not be used to delay or roll back the essential action needed for the city, which declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, but is yet to implement significant changes.

Green Councillors raised concerns about the Clean Air Zone proposal back in 2019 with no consideration on the effect of private vehicles on air quality and the disproportionate impact on small local businesses. We noted then that the very need for a CAZ in a city the size of Sheffield was an admission of policy failure at local and national level. So to see an already flawed plan being halted, at a time when we desperately need to be building infrastructure that works for the good of all, is cause for concern.

Air pollution already prematurely kills 500 people per year in Sheffield, with more than 28,000 deaths across the UK, making air quality a key issue for public health. These figures don’t exist in isolation either, with shortened lifespan and exacerbated health conditions for many, in addition to recorded fatalities. COVID-19 has already shown us how environmental quality, and inequality, plays a part in public health.

It isn’t enough to claim a short-term drop in emissions due to the lockdown as ‘progress’ – in fact postponing the CAZ has put the council in breach of its legal requirement to address the issue. If SCC are serious about tackling toxic air quality it’s imperative that, rather than putting off any action, they make a clear commitment and take full advantage of the £40 million in government grants available.

Sheffield is well placed to be ahead of the curve. We welcome innovations around walking and cycling infrastructure put in place during the lockdown. Now is the time to expand that program, to meet the target of being carbon neutral by 2030 and help small local businesses to reduce emissions.


Councillor Paul Turpin

Gleadless Valley Green Party