Since our last briefing in November 2019, there have been further delays. There is now also a change in plan, another step in the long-running saga of the Council’s Clean Air Plan.
Air pollution levels have changed because traffic patterns have changed post-COVID, and because the Council is restricting motor traffic on some of the worst city centre pollution hot-spot streets. The Council is putting extra monitoring in place to test the impact of the changes. Subject to that monitoring, the Council will consult in October on new options, including (1) a small area charging zone including cars – a ‘CAZ D’, or (2) as (1) combined with a medium area zone excluding cars – CAZ C/ CAZ D. The proposed small zone diesel ban, which no other city apart from Bristol had planned, is no more! Subject to the monitoring, it is even possible that a CAZ will not be needed at all. See this Cabinet paper.
A Full Business Case had already been deferred from February 2020 till September 2020, and now it has been deferred to February 2021. The implementation date is by October 2021. The implementation of schemes in other cities has also been delayed due to COVID.
Arguably, the delay to CAZs weakens the air quality benefits of their eventual introduction, since the natural vehicle replacement cycle will lead to a cleaner vehicle fleet. Some people are starting to argue that it would be better to apply the considerable cost and resources on longer lasting measures.