Lizzie Pope
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Visit France in your motorhome? Make sure you don’t come home with a fine – here’s our essential must-read guide to the new ‘clean air’ scheme

France is a popular touring destination for British motorcaravanners. But next time you hop across The Channel, make sure you don’t fall foul of a new law.

Thankfully, compliance is simple and easy.

The Crit'Air scheme applies to all vehicles wishing to drive in Paris, Grenoble and Lyon, no matter where they are registered, so it affects locals and tourists alike.

But this is just the beginning. It's understood that in excess of 20 other French towns hope to sign up to this ‘clean air’ regulation in the next few years.

What is it?

The clean air stickers – known as vignettes – were introduced in Paris on 1 July 2016, before being rolled out elsewhere.

The system categorises vehicles according to the emissions standard they meet. Motorhomes up to 3500kg are classified as cars, those in excess of that as trucks.

The stickers are colour-coded, from green for the cleanest, to black for those which pollute most heavily.

An English-language version of the government website is live now, so it's already possible for UK drivers to buy the stickers.

So long as you’re displaying a sticker, you can drive in the cities where the scheme is being enforced. But on days when pollution levels are high, local authorities can ban vehicles with high emissions.

How do I avoid a fine?

The good news is, it’s quick, easy and cheap to get covered. And there’s a grace period. It’s not being strictly enforced until 1 April 2017 – so if you’re en route to the ferry, don’t panic!

The vignettes only cost around £3.50. But failure to comply will mean a fine of at least €68 (about £59), and possibly as much as €135 (approximately £117). If you don’t pay the fine within 45 days, the fee rises again.

To get your sticker you’ll need to know the emissions standard of your motorhome, which you should find in your ’van’s handbook. It will also be on your motorhome’s certificate of conformity.

And only buy vignettes from the government website – some third party sites are selling them at a higher price.

The new normal

Of course, for many, motorcaravanning is about heading off the beaten track, not driving through cities. And anyway, for owners of larger motorhomes, it’s not hard to see that picking your way through crowded urban roads holds little appeal.

But the inevitable expansion of the Crit'Air scheme means at some point you’re likely to be affected when you visit France.

And with more cities across Europe and beyond introducing similar programmes, it’s something we’re all going to have to get used to.

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

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