Bristol City Council clean air plans include a diesel vehicle ban and clean air zone
Bristol City Council is proposing a diesel vehicle ban combined with a clean air zone charge to clean up the city’s air.
The changes would see all diesel vehicles banned from a small area in the city centre and a larger charging zone for older, polluting commercial vehicles such as buses and taxis.
Private cars would be included in the small area ban but would escape a charge.
A scrappage scheme for older diesel vehicles would also be launched.
If they are approved by the council’s ruling Labour cabinet and accepted by government, the changes will be introduced in March 2021.
The clean air zone proposals are the council’s answer to an order from the government in 2017 to reduce the city’s dangerously high nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels as quickly as possible.
It has taken two years to get to this point after a series of delays and missed deadlines, partly due to the Labour administration’s reluctance to introduce a congestion charge for private cars.
Despite government pressure to consider the move, it is still avoiding charging private vehicles, saying it would unfairly penalise poorer citizens.
The council consulted on two options earlier this year, but these would not have cut NO2 levels to legal limits until 2028 at the earliest, so it has come up with a third option - a combination of the two.
Announcing the “ambitious” plan for a clean air zone late last night (October 29), a council spokesman said: “The plan recommends Bristol becomes the first city in the UK to take the bold step of introducing a small area diesel ban for all vehicles alongside a charging zone for non-compliant commercial vehicles such as buses, taxis, HGVs and LGVs.
“A car scrappage scheme would also be launched.
“Further measures for tackling air quality through improving and prioritising public transport options are also suggested, which support the Mayor of Bristol’s pledge to reduce the reliance on cars and increase the number of bus users.”
The plans are not billed as as a congestion zone, as is used in London, with a council spokesman explaining the difference.
"Congestion and air pollution are related but are not the same," he said. "Clean Air Zones are designed to improve air quality to meet legal requirements and therefore focus on tackling polluting vehicles.
"A congestion charge does not distinguish between vehicles based on pollution, but aims to reduce the total number of vehicles on the road or within an area.
"A Clean Air Zone may indeed impact on congestion, but this is likely to only be in the short-term whilst vehicles are upgraded to cleaner models or people adjust their travel choices."
The outline clean air proposals will be submitted to government next week if they are approved by the ruling Labour cabinet next Tuesday, November 5.
The council was meant to submit the plan on September 30, but was granted a six-week extension having missed two earlier deadlines already.
It said at the time that the delay would not affect “implementation or compliance dates” for reducing the toxic levels of air pollution on the city’s streets.
The council describes its newest proposals as a “small area diesel ban” combined with a “CAZ C+ scheme”, where commercial vehicles that do not meet minimum emission standards are charged to enter a clean air zone (CAZ).
It was ordered in August by then environment minister Dr Therese Coffey to consider charging drivers of polluting diesel cars, but its outline proposals do not include that option.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, said: “These ambitious plans demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution so we meet legal limits within the shortest time, without disproportionally affecting citizens on lower incomes which would happen with a blanket approach to charging vehicles.
“Protecting the most vulnerable people from pollution is central to these plans and we have ensured that all impacts have been carefully considered. If approved, mitigation measures will support those most affected, especially those living in the most deprived communities.”
The council said its outline proposals are the result of “rigorous technical analysis” of a number of options and a city-wide public consultation.
It said it has worked closely with the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) throughout the process, and will continue to work with it while it prepares it final clean air plans.
The final plans were due on December 23 but the council says it is now planning to submit its “full business case” next year.
A council spokesman said: “As part of the full business case, there will be direct engagement with all businesses and residents affected to help manage implementation, including details of mitigations measures and exemptions.
“The deadline for the implementation of the plans is March 2021.”
The outline proposals took into account responses to a six-week consultation held in July and August during which members of the public had the chance to comment on two options: Option 1, a clean air zone (private cars not charged), and Option 2, a diesel car ban.
The details of both options considered are set out below.
Option 1: Clean Air Zone (private cars not charged)
- A zone where more polluting buses, coaches, taxis, heavy (HGVs) and light goods vehicles (LGVs) would be charged for each day they are driven in the zone. Taxis and LGVs would be charged £9 per day. HGVs, coaches and buses £100.
Option 1 would also include:
- a 24-hour a day, seven day a week HGV weight restriction on the worst polluted routes;
- A diesel car ban on Upper Maudlin Street and Park Row running from St James Barton roundabout to Park Street between 7am and 3pm, seven days a week (this would not apply to taxis/private hire or emergency services);
- Bus and local traffic changes in the most polluting areas including an inbound bus lane on the M32, an inbound bus lane on Cumberland Road and using existing traffic signals to control the amount of traffic entering congested areas with poor air quality;
- A scrappage scheme (up to £2,000) for diesel cars. This would provide a grant towards a newer cleaner vehicle or an alternative mode of transport (e.g. bus travel or purchasing a bike).
Option 2: Diesel car ban
Banning all diesel cars from driving in a specific central area (small zone) from 7am to 3pm, seven days a week (this would not apply to taxis/private hire or emergency services). Other measures, including a scrappage scheme, could also be included.