You may have noticed the signs popping up all over Sheffield about the new Clean Air Zone which starts in a little over a week’s time. It’s modelled on the London clean air zone and is designed to financially penalise businesses operating the most polluting vehicles on our roads.

The link between vehicle emissions and illness is well documented. It has also been widely reported that the UK has repeatedly missed legally binding emissions reduction targets agreed to in International treaties. One of the responses that has been used before successfully is a clean air zone.

Just look at London where the average age of the heavy vehicle fleet has dropped significantly since the introduction of their zone.

Clean Air Zone: Where is it?

It’s fairly easy to find, basically its any area inside the Sheffield inner ring road. So anything inside the loop created by the A61, St Mary’s Gate, Hanover Way and Netherthorpe Road.

Signs outside this area are warnings of the Clean Air Zone and do not mark the boarder.

Clean Air Zone: Who will be affected?

Currently the zone will not affect private cars or motorcycles so the majority of learner drivers will not be affected. However those who are learning to drive for work may find themselves travelling into the zone in chargeable vehicles.

These vehicles include:

  • Taxis. Both private hire vehicles like City Taxis and Ubers and Hackney Carriages, (those you do not need to prebook or summon with an app). Cars used for taxi work that are either Euro 5 Diesel or older and Euro 4 Petrol or older are subject to charge.
  • Light Goods Vehicles either Euro 5 Diesel and older or Euro 4 Petrol and older. These include vans, pick-up trucks, minibuses and camper vans.
  • Buses and coaches which are below Euro 6 Diesel.
  • Heavy Goods Vehicles which are below Euro 6 Diesel.

There is a checker on the Government website which will tell you if your vehicle is subject to charges or not. You can find it here.

If you are self employed or a business owner operating a business which will be affected by the Clean Air Zone you can apply to the council for assistance in upgrading your vehicle. If you have already upgraded after 26th October 2021 you can get financial help retrospectively.

Clean Air Zone: Are any vehicles exempt?

National exemptions apply to ultra low emissions vehicles, vehicles with the taxation class of Disabled Passenger Vehicle, military vehicles, historic vehicles and vehicles retrofitted with technology accredited by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme.

There is also a national exemption for certain agricultural vehicles.

Local exemptions are listed below.

LGV vehicles based in Sheffield and Rotherham have a temporary exemption until 4th June this year. You will need to apply for this exemption on the Sheffield Council website.

Hackney Carriages licensed by Sheffield Council are also exempt until 4th June 2023. This exemption is applied automatically to licensed operators.

This exemption is not available to operators licensed by other authorities operating in Sheffield.

Large motorhomes that are Euro 5 Diesel or below and Euro 4 Petrol or below also have an exemption. These are defined as vehicles registered with the DVSA as a ‘Motorcaravan’ with a Gross Vehicle Weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes. This exemption reduces the £50 charge to £10.

You will need to apply for an exemption for each journey into the zone. It doesn’t endure for multiple visits. It will however last the full duration of the Clean Air Zone.

Coaches, buses and minibuses being used for educational school trips are also exempt. The exemption must be applied for in advance or on the day of travel and applies to journeys either to an educational site inside the zone or travelling through the zone en-route to an educational trip.

As an example, you could apply for an exemption to take a school party to the National Emergency Services Museum inside the zone, or you could apply for an exemption to take a group of school children from Spital Hill to Weston Park Museum via Broad Lane.

This exemption does not apply to vehicles transporting pupils to and from school.

Vehicles operating under a Community Transport permit like a Section 19 or Section 22 permit are eligible to apply for an exemption permit. Private Hire and Hackney Carriages with Community Transport permits are not able to apply for this permit.

Eligible vehicles are granted a one year permit. There is no opportunity to renew for a second year. The application process should take around five days but the council advise that you apply 28 days in advance of your journey.

This exemption allows for 10 days in a year that the owner of a vintage bus wishes to drive inside the Clean Air Zone. The bus or coach in question must be between 20 and 39 years old on the day of the journey.

The bus in question cannot be used in any way for hire or reward, in connection with a trade or business.

This exemption needs to be applied for in advance, it should take 5 days but allow 28.

Operators of a non-compliant vehicle currently under a finance agreement, who are either registered inside the Clean Air Zone or where access to or from the registered business requires entering the zone. The exemption must be applied for in advance and takes between 5 and 28 days to be granted.

The exemption applies for up to 1 year from the date of the CAZ and only applies to vehicles purchased under the agreement before 26th October 2021 and where at least one payment is due after the zone comes into force on 27th February this year.

If the finance agreement ends during the first year of the zone, the exemption will end at the same time.

The first catch here is that you cannot use this in conjunction with Sheffield Council’s financial support measures.

The exemption needs to be applied for in advance and can take between 5 and 28 days to come through. It will expire after a year or on the delivery date of the ordered replacement vehicle or retrofit system being installed.

These vehicles, which are listed below, can be exempted for a year at time and the exemption can be renewed. Each application is case by case but you can apply for an exemption for the following types of vehicle:

  • Agricultural or similar vehicles including tractors, gritters, snow ploughs, mowers and steam powered vehicles.
  • Specialist works vehicles such as diggers and backhoes, road surfacing machines, mobile cranes, mobile pumps or work trucks designed for use in private premises. If the vehicle is less than 3.5 tonnes GVW you will need to show a Vehicle Special Order granted by the Vehicle Certification Agency to qualify.
  • Specialist rigid HGVs used by travelling showmen where the design of the vehicle doesn’t allow the fitment of emission abatement equipment.
  • Recovery vehicles used solely for the purposes of recovery. This means you can’t get an exemption for vehicles used for vehicle transport as well as breakdown provision.
  • Disabled adapted coaches fitted with specialist adaptations to carry disabled passengers. You will need to show an accessibility certificate confirming compliances with schedule 1 of the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000.

Clean Air Zone: What will it cost me?

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the requirements and doesn’t have an exemption you will need to pay to drive on or inside the inner ring road. ANPR cameras will spot your vehicle inside the zone boundary and you will need to pay the charge. On the start of the zone the charges are £10 for vans, LGVs and taxis or £50 for coaches, buses and HGVs.

The charges apply each day you drive in the zone. You can pay online either on the day of your journey or on the six days either side of your journey. Failure to pay on time could result in a penalty charge notice.


Nick Smith is an Approved Driving Instructor working in south Sheffield. Along with automatic driving lessons, Nick is a driving test nerves specialist and offers theory support to learners. A former truck driver, Nick also presents Driver CPC periodic training courses to professional drivers.

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