Bath’s clean air zone has made Bath & North East Somerset Council more than £7m in fines since it was brought in.
A total of 174,755 fines were issued between the introduction of the clean air zone in March 2021 and October 2023 to people driving a non-compliant vehicle in the zone, a freedom of information request has revealed.
Most of these were repeat fines to people who had already been charged before, with fines issued to 76,745 different vehicles.
Bath was the first city in the UK after London to introduce a clean air zone but, unlike other cities such as neighbouring Bristol, vehicles registered as private cars with the DVLA are exempt from paying the charge in Bath.
Other vehicles such as HGVs, vans, buses, coaches and minibuses have to pay a daily charge of £9 or £100 to enter the zone.
But many people have been caught out. One Lancashire woman whose van met the requirements for the clean air zone in Bolton and thought the same rules applied in Bath was slapped with a £120 fine after travelling to the city, while a Bath man who travelled through the zone for “about 20 seconds” was handed a hefty £273 fine after forgetting to pay an initial penalty charge notice.
In total, fines since the zone was introduced have totalled £7,102,980.
Only around 94,000 people live in the city but 3.9 million different vehicles have been detected in the zone since it launched, making almost 40 million different journeys.
This means about one in every 50 people who has driven through the clean air zone since its launch has been fined — or two percent.
Bath & North East Somerset Council said: “The Bath Clean Air Zone was introduced on 15 March 2021 following a government directive to take steps to improve air quality in the shortest possible time.
“One means of meeting this directive is through the introduction of a charging Clean Air Zone which sees higher polluting vehicles – thus those contributing the most towards poor air quality – to pay a daily charge of either £9 or £100 for their use within the zone.”
Since introducing the clean air zone, the council has also aimed to tackle air quality in the city by rolling out emissions-based prices in council car parks. This sees the owners of more polluting vehicles pay more to park.
As part of its plans to close a £24.5m budget black hole, the council is now planning to roll out emissions-based pricing to Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, and on-street parking in Bath.
John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter