Bristol delays pollution compliance to protect low income residents

 

Bristol is set to achieve compliance with legal pollution limits years later than other cities, as senior councillors are to consider two options to improve air quality.

The plans, which are to be presented to the council’s cabinet next week, are for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) that would exempt private cars or a daytime city centre ban on diesel cars.

Both options would be accompanied by a package of non-charging measures, such as bans on highly polluted routes for heavy goods vehicles and bus priority measures, alongside a city-wide scrappage scheme and improvements to buses and taxis to ensure they are all within compliant emission standards.

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The council said the two options will allow the city to meet Government-set targets. However, documents for the meeting note that the date by which the options will achieve compliance is expected to be around 2024.

The EU requires member states to achieve compliance in the ‘shortest possible time’. 

The UK Government had previously set a deadline of 2020, which it believed that councils could meet, but this was overturned in the courts in favour of an approach that required faster action if possible based on the EU air quality directive.

However, most other cities, including those with the most serious pollution problems, have set out plans to achieve compliance by 2020.

Bristol had previously planned to introduce a CAZ that would charge the most polluting private cars but has now substituted other measures in its CAZ option on the grounds that it is protecting low income households.

It appears that these measures have signficantly brought forward the expected compliance date. However, it is not clear whether the council has modelled the impact of combining the new measures with charging non-compliant private cars.

A spokesperson for the council declined to comment on the anticipated compliance date.

Mayor Marvin Rees said: ‘To successfully tackle serious and complex city challenges like poor air quality we must ensure environmental and social justice go hand in hand. We cannot and will not sacrifice our low income households by introducing widespread charges which will have a detrimental impact on them.

‘These latest proposals could strike the right balance by targeting the most polluting vehicles within specific classes of vehicle and by considering a dedicated area outside our central Bristol hospitals including the children’s hospital, where we want to protect those most vulnerable to pollution.’

Transport Network has also approached environment department Defra for comment on the proposed compliance date.

As previously reported on Transport Network, the council has repeatedly missed Government-set deadlines to bring forward plans to bring nitrogen dioxide within legal limits.

The council is aiming to consult on its plans next month, despite being told by environment minister Therese Coffey to begin all necessary public consultation on its preferred scheme by the end of March.

The two options are:

  • Option 1, Clean Air Zone (private cars not charged) – this includes a local scrappage scheme, improvements to buses and taxis to compliant standards, bus and local traffic interventions in the most polluting areas, incorporating a bus lane on the M32, a targeted diesel ban on the highway past the Bristol Royal Infirmary and a charging scheme for polluting buses, taxis, light goods and heavy goods vehicles
  • Option 2, Diesel car ban – all diesel cars are banned from entering a specific central area for an eight-hour period (from 7am-3pm).
 

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