Fresh look at charging zones idea to clean up our air
by Keri Beckingham
A NEW consultation has been launched for the public to have their say on revised proposals for a potential Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Bristol, which would charge certain vehicles for driving into the city centre.
Research estimates that 300 people each year in Bristol die prematurely because of our dirty air, compared to just 12 in traffic accidents, and that air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children and older people, and those with heart and lung conditions. The annual health cost of the impacts of poor air quality in Bristol is estimated at £83m.
In support of Clean Air Day 2020 on October 8, Bristol City Council asked local people, businesses and organisations to consider how small changes can make a big difference in cutting toxic fumes across the city – and to make use of the free tools and advice available to help people be the change.
This included encouraging people to think twice before using open fires or wood-burning stoves, to walk, cycle or scoot for short journeys, and to turn off car engines when stationary. In addition, the council is also giving more priority to buses, pedestrians and cyclists on roads across the city, such as Bristol Bridge and Baldwin Street, to make less polluting journeys a more attractive option for everyone.
Bristol City Council missed the third deadline to submit a plan to clean up Bristol’s air in September 2019.
Following further air quality modelling to explore alternative ways that traffic pollution could be reduced, the council is consulting on a small and larger charging zone option, and in our area the larger would be likely to end at the junction of Berkeley Rd/Gloucester Rd.
The council hopes a combination of major transport improvements and behaviour change may help to clean up Bristol’s air quality, maintaining the positive changes that were experienced during lockdown and lessening the need to charge or ban certain vehicles via a CAZ. However, if pollution returns to the illegal, pre-Covid levels, a charging zone will be required.
Residents are being asked to give their views on two new options for improving air quality, and both would involve charging the most polluting vehicles to drive into central Bristol.
Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Everyone faces their own unique set of obstacles in tackling the environmental challenges we all face so we would encourage everyone to look at the changes they can make to their own lifestyles. No matter how big or small the change is, it will make a difference if we all work together, and the council is here to help people along their journey. If we unite we can make our city a healthier place for everyone to live.”
Eleanor Combley, Green Councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down, said: “It’s clear that we have to do something about Bristol’s illegal levels of air pollution, which causes hundreds of deaths each year. The Mayor has suggested that a few roads closed to through traffic in the centre of the city, and a bit of encouraging people to change how they travel, will be enough to reach legal levels of clean air in the city. But some of the worst traffic and air pollution is outside people’s homes in poorer parts of Bristol. And if we want people to switch from their cars we need to make the alternatives safe and appealing.
“These initiatives on their own are unlikely to lead to clean, breathable air without further measures. Charging the most polluting vehicles is one way to have more of an impact and improve the air we all breathe. But most importantly, I’d like to see projects to make roads safer for walking and cycling rolled out across Bristol, not just in the centre, to support local shopping areas and create more liveable neighbourhoods all around the city.”
Martin Fodor, Green councillor for Redland, said: “With air pollution rising to illegal levels again people are worried that their health is suffering, medication for asthma is again needed, and the link to respiratory viruses is causing anxiety as well.
“It’s inevitable that the charging options have to be considered as the government knows this will work – frankly it looks unlikely that the changes in the centre will be enough on their own. People all over the city want safe air and safe streets so I hope the council will finally be decisive enough to tackle this, support residents and businesses with the changes needed, and not just try to scrape through the legal limit for NOx pollution.”
Tom Brook, Labour councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down added: “Whilst planning is continuing to implement a charging zone if necessary, it is the council’s preference to adopt an approach to improve our air quality through other means, without charging. This would incorporate a variety of methods and would build on the decisive action already taken to pedestrianise the Old City, close Bristol Bridge and introduce wider cycle lanes at key locations.”
As part of the consultation, the council is drawing on conclusions from independent academics within the ClairCity project, which collected local views and found that Bristolians want to contribute to tackling environmental problems.
To have your say on a charging zone for vehicles, complete the online survey at: gov.uk/caz2020 before November 22. If you would like a paper copy or the information in an alternative format please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 07775 115 909.
To find out more about Bristol’s clean air plans, visit: www.cleanairforbristol.org