The Council has published its delayed Clean Air Plan proposals. In a paper for the Cabinet meeting on 18th June, the Council proposes either a small city centre zone in which older diesel cars are banned, or a medium area Clean Air Zone in which older vehicles other than cars are charged. Both options come with other measures. Public consultation will commence on 1 July.
In a statement to the Cabinet meeting, Bristol Clean Air Alliance made a number of points:
- It is taking too long: a charging Clean Air Zone that includes cars delivers compliance with air pollution limits only by 2027+, which is later than other cities. Birmingham is projected to deliver compliance through a charging Clean Air Zone by 2022. It seems that Bristol has a worse problem than other cities, possibly because of persistent congestion at places where the pollution gets trapped by buildings in Bristol’s narrow streets? The legal requirement is to deliver compliance “as soon as possible”, and even a diesel car ban delivers only by 2023/4, which is not very soon.
- Serious action is needed: A car ban zone (Option 2) is more draconian than a charging zone (Option 1), but seems necessary because Bristol seems to have a worse problem than other cities. As the legal requirement is to deliver compliance “as soon as possible”, and 2023/4 is not very soon, the proposals could be even stronger. The legal requirement is probably to include goods vehicles as well as cars.
- The bigger picture: A charging Clean Air Zone and a zonal older-diesel car ban are sticking-plaster measures. What is needed is a general reduction in single-user vehicles so that our narrow city centre roads can meet the travel demand whilst minimising air and noise pollution. This requires demand management measures such as a Workplace Parking Levy, alongside a programme of improvements for other transport modes. Nottingham did this some years ago, and it seems no coincidence that it is one of the few cities that has not had to introduce a Clean Air Zone in order to comply with legal air pollution limits.
The Council’s leaders also recognise the bigger picture. Mayor Marvin Rees gave a speech on Clean Air Day (20th June) covering the council’s climate change and transport plans, alongside the clean air plans. One of the new transport initiatives he announced was “a fresh look at the possibility of a Workplace Parking Levy”.