Air pollution: what next?

October 27 2017

A 2020 vision of how clean air in Bishopston could be realised was explored at October’s meeting of The Bishopston Society.

A 2020 vision of how clean air in Bishopston could be realised was explored at October’s meeting of The Bishopston Society. Experts representing the global academic research, local political and Bristol campaign activist communities each responded to the need for clean air, in the face of the frightening annual figure of 8.5% of all deaths in Bristol (300) being caused by exposure to air pollution.

Nick Plant from the Bishopston Society said: “It’s great that in the face of large-scale global concern about clean air, we’re working successfully with local partners on community responses, and we’re hugely grateful to meeting participants for their active contributions to our campaign planning.”

The public meeting was held in partnership with Sustainable Bishopston at the Friends Meeting on Gloucester Road. Details of Bishopston Society Report are below. 


What’s the council doing?

Fi Hance, local Green Party councillor and Chair of the Council’s Air Quality Management Group looked at how Bristol City Council at last seems to be treating the problem seriously. To comply with the government’s UK Air Quality Action Plan, the Council needs to submit its own plan by March 2018. The best option is seen to be to develop Clean Air Zones (CAZ). 

Essentially these would be created by imposing a charge on vehicles entering high pollution areas of the city, based on their emission levels. The feasibility study being undertaken will look at the most suitable size of CAZ area to set up. The small option would only cover parts of central Bristol. The medium-sized one would cover a much wider area, including the M32 corridor and the Gloucester Road as far as the edge of Southmead. 

The other decision still to be made is which categories of vehicles would be charged or even excluded – only buses, taxis, HGVs and LGVs or all vehicles?


Walking alternatives

Alan Morris gave an introduction to the aims and work of the Bristol Walking Alliance, an organisation which campaigns in conjunction with other groups and organisations such as Bristol Civic Society, Living Streets and Sustrans to promote a welcoming, safe, convenient and inclusive urban environment that will encourage walking rather than motorised transport. 


What citizens can do

In a wide-ranging talk, Dr Caroline Bartle from the Centre for Transport and Society at UWE looked at ways people can combat air pollution and reduce their exposure to it. Bishopston has a higher rate of car ownership per household (1.24) than either the Bristol or national average figures which implies there is a need to adopt ways of reducing motor car use.

Shifting to other modes of transport (cycling, walking, using the bus) is the most obvious means of achieving this but how do we succeed in this aim? 

Getting people to pledge they will reduce car use can work at community level; apps that provide real time bus travel information help make effective use of buses; saving on car costs by sharing or using car clubs; changing to electric cars; even adopting more eco-friendly driving habits like smoother acceleration and switching off when idling – all these can help.


Clean Air Bishopston – a preview

Kevin Molloy from Bishopston Society gave a preview of ‘Clean Air Bishopston’ (CAB), a project well into its planning phase being run by the Society in conjunction with Sustainable Bishopston, Bristol Walking Alliance and others. He reminded people that the group discussions at the TBS April public meeting had identified a large number of self-help activities that would help improve air quality in Bishopston and that the CAB project aimed to respond to that challenge. He hoped others would be encouraged to get involved in the project.

Four discussion groups focused on one of the planks of Clean Air Bishopston:

• Improving Gloucester Road bus lanes and associated problems 

• Developing and encouraging more walking in Bishopston 

• Aligning with relevant items and issues on transport ‘bugbears’ and traffic choices

• Setting up a web portal on clean air in Bishopston, showcasing positive actions, linking the project with wider clean air work, and launching the project.


To find out more see


Photos courtesy of The Bishopston Society.