Bath’s clean air zone plans remain unchanged despite Bristol’s mayor claiming the city could hit its target without charging any vehicle.
Marvin Rees said if Bristol can reduce the levels of toxic pollutants without having to impose strict controls it would be “the best of both worlds” as we face “the worst economic depression in 300 years”.
He said upgrades to the city’s walking and cycle infrastructure could lock in the improvements to air quality that had been recorded during the lockdown.
The same could be said of Bath but its clean air plan is more advanced than Bristol’s and work is already underway, with Queen Square set to be resurfaced next month, after the council has secured millions of pounds from Government.
Councillor Sarah Warren, joint cabinet member for climate emergency for Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “We have been directed by the Government to continue to develop a clean air zone scheme which ensures compliance. As such our plans remain unchanged.
“With traffic returning to nearly normal levels following lockdown, we remain committed to reducing nitrogen dioxide levels in the city to within legal limits and improving air quality in the shortest possible time.”
The council did not comment on whether it felt it had been punished for submitting its plans more quickly than Bristol City Council, which is yet to file a full business case.
Speaking last week, Mr Rees said of the Bristol situation: “We have maintained a fair improvement in the quality of air in the city because travel and work patterns have changed [during the lockdown].
“The opportunity that is now before us is that, if we can maintain the best of those changes in those work patterns and lifestyles, we believe we will be able to pursue a plan to get us to compliance in the shortest possible time in a way that doesn’t actually charge households and businesses.
“And that would be the best of all worlds as we go into the worst economic depression in 300 years with the impacts on businesses and households in the city. If we can get to compliance without further compounding their economic woes, that would be the best for Bristol.”
Like in Bristol, the council in Bath hopes infrastructure improvements will get more people walking and cycling in the city, which saw similar improvements to air quality during the lockdown – in some areas nitrogen dioxide levels halved, falling well within the legal limit, but they have since crept back up.
However, the council is not revisiting its clean air plan for the city.
The clean air zone for Bath – which still does not have a launch date after it was pushed back from November – will charge the worst polluting taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses, LGVs and vans £9 a day to enter.
Buses, coaches and lorries will have to pay £100.
Private cars will not be charged.
The council has secured £23.5million for the scheme.
The figure is less than leaders had hoped for and it will have to scale back its ambitions but they are confident it will be enough.
The money will allow it to implement the zone and mitigate its impacts, including grants to help many of those affected to upgrade their vehicles.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter