B&NES Council could be at risk of legal and financial penalties due to the lack of progress on the Bath Clean Air Zone, and has blamed the delay on the large amount of consultation responses received.
B&NES Council is at risk of government “escalation”, including legal and financial penalties, and could receive a warning similar to the one issued to Bristol mayor Marvin Rees earlier this week, due to the lack of progress on a proposed Clean Air Zone.
Councillor Bob Goodman, Cabinet Member for Development and Neighbourhoods, admitted on Monday that no new decision date has been set for the Clean Air Zone plan.
The plan was due to have been signed off on 18th December 2018, but the Cabinet voted to postpone after a higher than anticipated volume of consultation responses.
Since then, a letter from DEFRA Minister Dr Therese Coffey MP to Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has confirmed that the government will initiate the “appropriate escalation process”, should B&NES Council “miss deadlines”.
The letter to Wera also reveals that B&NES Council plans to produce a report on the consultation’s findings in March.
Lib Dem spokesperson on Air Quality, Councillor Richard Samuel, commented: “It looks as though the Conservatives are hoping to put this difficult issue off till after the elections in May, but their indecision is leading them down a risky path.
“Bristol has already come under threat of legal action for not complying with the government’s instructions and now we have confirmation that B&NES could also be heading that way.
“The Lib Dems want swift action to tackle Bath’s toxic air, to protect residents’ health and to ensure that the costs do not fall on those least able to pay.
“There’s certainly no time to waste on legal disputes with the government, nor any money to waste on possible fines. Residents are looking for certainty and that’s not being provided.”
Bath’s Lib Dem MP, Wera Hobhouse, added: “After making a big song and dance about their environmental credentials, with Bob Goodman fronting the project, B&NES Tories have failed to actually do anything about Bath’s air pollution problems.
“They have wasted time, money and are apparently now facing rebuke from central government for failing to come up with a solution in the allocated time.
“It’s a complete mess. I will be writing back to the Minister asking for more details on the disciplinary process.
“Bath is badly served by the local Tories. Our council is under significant financial pressure, and their incompetence is making it much worse.”
Speaking back in December, Councillor Tim Warren, council leader, said: “Our aim is to be compliant with the minimum detrimental effect upon our residents, while maintaining and growing the successful economy in the city.
“Our residents and businesses have taken the time to speak to us and they deserve a considered response.
“In order to help shape our final decision we need to use these responses and secure the best package of support measures. To do this we will be taking into account people’s strongly-expressed views and concerns.”