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What do I need to know about London’s changing ULEZ?

By Ted Welford | August 4, 2023

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On August 29, London’s ultra-low-emission zone (ULEZ) is set to expand to cover a significantly larger area.

What do I need to know about London’s changing ULEZ?

On August 29, London’s ultra-low-emission zone (ULEZ) is set to expand to cover a significantly larger area. 

When introduced in 2019 it initially focused on more central areas, while a later expansion in October 2021 saw it cover all areas between the North Circular and South Circular Roads. 

But later this month, ULEZ will expand to all of Greater London, including most areas within the M25. This includes 32 London boroughs and the City of London.

Transport for London says it’s being introduced to help provide cleaner air for Londoners, with air pollution being seen as a key problem throughout the capital. ULEZ aims to get more polluting vehicles off the road by requiring cars that don’t meet strict emissions regulations to pay a charge to enter the zone.

For vehicles that don’t meet these regulations(pre-Euro 4 diesels and pre-Euro 6 diesels), a daily charge of £12.50 needs to be made otherwise fines of £180 are issued, reduced to £90 if paid within the first 14 days. The charge only needs to be made if a vehicle is driven, so if it’s parked – even on a road – you don’t have to pay. You can check if your car is ULEZ compliant by entering its number plate here

But what is set to happen with London’s ULEZ, will it definitely be introduced, and what incentives are available? We answer some of your key questions.

Will London’s ULEZ expand to my area?

This latest ULEZ expansion will cover all of Greater London. Though other cities, including Birmingham and Bristol, already have clean air zones (CAZ) in place, outside of London these are up to the local authority in your area to implement. 

London’s ULEZ cannot expand further, so if you live just outside the zone, you shouldn’t worry. You’d only face a ULEZ charge if your area was moved to become part of ‘Greater London’ - though there are no current plans to do this. 

However, similar clean air zones are likely to become far more prevalent in future years as cities look to crack down on local air pollution. Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh will begin enforcing their CAZs in 2024, while it’s expected Greater Manchester will implement a similar scheme. 

Why is ULEZ being challenged?

Due to the sheer size of the expansion of ULEZ, it will affect thousands of motorists driving non-compliant vehicles, especially those behind the wheel of even relatively new diesel vehicles. Some diesel cars up until September 2015 can be non-compliant. 

Those motorists face paying a £12.50 daily charge to keep driving their vehicle in the local area, or will have to change their vehicle for something newer. With many already struggling to pay their bills in the cost-of-living crisis, it’s led to an uproar among those in affected areas, as well as councils challenging the expanded introduction.

Can ULEZ be stopped?

The controversy surrounding ULEZ means that it’s not only individuals challenging its introductions but local authorities too. Five Conservative-led councils - Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon - along with Surrey county council, launched legal action in February.

It went all the way to the High Court, too. However, it was ruled that the decision to expand ULEZ was entirely within the powers of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and that it would go ahead as planned on August 29. 

What about the ULEZ ‘blade runners’?

ULEZ is enforced by cameras with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology, with 2,750 new cameras being installed ahead of the expansion. 

However, it’s these cameras that are being targeted by vandals angry at the expansion of ULEZ. A group called the ‘Blade Runners’ is vandalising and stealing the cameras used to enforce ULEZ. These have vowed to ‘take down’ every camera in London, and have been said to have already damaged or removed ‘a couple hundred’ cameras. While it had recently gone quiet, there has recently been a spate of incidents in Chiswick, West London. 

Is there any financial support to buy a ULEZ-compliant car?

If you are soon to live in the expanded ULEZ zone and are struggling to afford a compliant vehicle, Transport for London has a scrappage scheme in place. 

The car scheme was initially only available to those receiving some kind of benefits but has now been opened up to all Londoners from August 21. This sees every person in affected areas being eligible for a £2,000 grant if they currently own a non-ULEZ-compliant car. 

For wheelchair-accessible vehicles, there is a payment of £5,000 to scrap or retrofit a vehicle to the ULEZ standards. 

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