Ulez ‘grace period’ likely after low emission zone is expanded

Khan hints that drivers will not immediately be fined for breaking the rules after Ulez is expanded to all of London in August, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

credit TfL
credit TfL

Drivers who fail or forget to pay the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) levy when the zone expands across London could escape without having to pay the £180 penalty fine.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has hinted that an amnesty or grace period will be introduced, possibly for several weeks, after the proposed 29th August “go live” date when the clean air zone covers all 32 London boroughs.

This will mean that warning letters rather than fines are issued to drivers of non-compliant vehicles who have failed to pay the £12.50 daily levy – amid fears that many will have been “caught unaware” and unintentionally breached the rules.

A similar amnesty was used when Ulez was first introduced in central London in April 2019, and again when it was expanded to the inner boundary of the North Circular and South Circular roads in October 2021.

Khan, asked whether he would consider allowing people some time to adjust to the zone’s expanded boundary, said: “These things are always kept under review and monitored.”

But he said it would be unwise to “telegraph” any amnesty in advance as it would simply have the effect of delaying the changes he hopes Londoners will make in response to the London Ulez – upgrading to a cleaner vehicle, walking or cycling or using public transport.

Khan is determined to expand the zone for a second time but his plans could be delayed by a High Court challenge brought by five Tory councils that will be heard on 4th July.

In 2021, drivers who had failed to pay received letters saying “on this occasion” a penalty charge notice has not been issued but this could change for “future contraventions”.

The hint that fines may not be issued immediately was given at a Mayor’s Question Time session on Thursday, when Khan was asked by Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon whether he would consider the softer approach.

“29th August is fast approaching, and despite all of the publicity around Ulez expansion, many people will still be caught unaware,” said Caroline.

“Will you agree to send warning letters for the first few weeks, rather than immediate fines, to help Londoners to adjust to your new Ulez boundary?”

Khan responded by saying that Caroline “will appreciate why we wouldn’t telegraph [that] – even if we were considering doing something like that – for obvious reasons. It just delays people taking action.

“We’re quite clear we want to stick with 29th August. We’ve given grace periods and extensions for those who may have challenges […] but these things are always kept under review and monitored.”

Caroline said the move would be “welcomed by Londoners” and would help to “bring the public with” him when the zone expands.

A “short-term grace period” is already being made available for London-based small businesses and charities which are in the process of ordering a new compliant vehicle, or are retrofitting one they’re currently using.

Disabled people with wheelchair-accessible vehicles, those on disability benefits, or who have vehicles registered with the DVLA as having ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class, will all benefit from a grace period until October 2027.