Two years ago, Bath became the first city in the UK after London to aim to limit polluting traffic with a Clean Air Zone.

The scheme was launched in March 2021 at the request of the government to tackle levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution caused by traffic in the city, with charges for more vehicles that do not meet a required emissions standard entering the zone.

Private cars are intended to always be exempt from the scheme, but taxis, vans, hauliers, or people with vehicles such as horseboxes need to meet the emissions standard to avoid being charged.

When the Clean Air Zone was introduced, there were fears it could doom the city’s taxis.

But two years on, taxi firm boss Craig Bowen says: “I would be surprised if any taxi company had a problem with it.”

Mr Bowen runs executive taxi company Roman Baths Private Hire. He said: “It was a hinderance in the beginning, but […] personally I knew it was coming long before it came, so I started to do upgrades. Then they gave grants to all taxi drivers that were struggling.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council gave financial assistance to more than 900 locals who needed to upgrade their vehicles to be compliant with the new requirements.

Rob Sangwell runs light rigging company Fineline Lighting, whose projects have included the Christmas lights on Bath Abbey. He said: “Like all businesses we have had to upgrade all vehicles to Euro 6 and pay the fines until that’s achieved, because obviously it takes a while to upgrade.”

But he stressed: “It’s not specific to Bath but everywhere there’s a clean air zone.”

He added: “At the end of the day I live in Bath and we do need to reduce the amount of pollution we are putting out.”

Haulage company Bath International Transport frequently has lorries going through Bath — although the Bristol-based company isn’t actually named for the city.

Owner Gary Bath said: “It hasn’t [affected us]. only because all our vehicles are the latest specification so it doesn’t make any difference to us.”

Mr Bath added that his company needed Euro 6 lorries to go through several cities now. He said: “You have to do it.”

Midsomer Norton-based haulier Parkers Transport mostly have compliant lorries too, but despite this, Rich who works there said: “We don’t go through Bath any more.”

He said: “It’s not so much the Clean Air Zone […] but the bridge for us is more of a concern.”

An 18-tonne weight restriction is currently in place on the Bath’s Cleveland Bridge. The Georgian bridge links the A46 to the A36 and is one of the main routes linking the M4 and the Dorset coast.

Rich said that Parkers Transport had to send their lorries via Bristol and Chippenham to avoid the crossing. He said: “We are spending more on  fuel and burning more diesel to go around. I don’t know how many miles it is but it’s a lot.”

The daily charge to enter the Clean Air Zone is £9 for taxis, minibuses, vans, pick-up trucks, and some campervans and four-by-fours; and £100 for coaches, buses, and HGVs. Private HGVs like horsebox vans and motorhomes can have the £100 reduced to £9, if registered with the council.

Motorbikes and private cars are not charged for entering the Clean Air Zone.

John Wimperis