Following Bristol City Council’s missed end-2018 deadline, there has been an exchange of letters between the government and the council. We now know more about the reasons for the delay and about the modelling results for some of the Clean Air Plan options. The council seems a long way off finding a solution. Even after many months’ work, it does not feel they know how they might achieve compliance with air quality limits by 2021, as they are legally required to do.
A summary of the council’s position is as follows:
- in March 2018, Cabinet decided on 5 possible Clean Air Plan options
- during 2018, the Council tested the two strongest options – option 1 (defined as a ban on older diesels including cars in the small Clean Air Zone area) and option 3 (a charging Clean Air Zone covering a medium area and also including cars).
- neither option is projected to achieve compliance by 2021. Compliance would be achieved by 2023 for option 1, and 2027 for option 3. (Except even later for Upper Maudlin Street.)
- the council has judged that both options have a disproportionate impact on low income households, and also negative effects on local businesses, which they are not prepared to countenance. So they are now looking at a weaker variant of Option1 that does not restrict cars, and instead focuses on heavy goods vehicles, buses and taxis.
- initial analysis without full modelling shows this might achieve compliance by 2025.
- their next steps are to explore a range of other measures, for instance more ‘clean’ buses, and various subsidies (scrappage scheme, interest-free loans, bus fares, mobility credits). They are revisiting a long list of measures, but some of these measures were previously rejected because they do not deliver significant change by 2021.
So on the face of it a huge amount of work is needed to deliver compliance by 2021, going back to square one, and it is uncertain when a preferred option will be announced or even whether compliance can be achieved by 2021.
The Mayor has said ‘It is important to note that despite the short delay in the business case, the revised approach will not result in any delay in reaching compliance’. And he has also said that a plan will be delivered to government by the end of March 2019. But it is hard to see how he can assert these things.