Liberal Democrat councillors on Bath & North East Somerset Council have welcomed action to tackle air pollution in Bath by introducing a clean air zone, but say the plans do not go far enough.
A meeting of Bath and North East Somerset’s cabinet on Tuesday 5th March approved a recommendation for a Class C option, which exempts cars from being charged to drive in the zone but charges higher emission buses, coaches, HGVs, LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis.
Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on B&NES Council, commented: “The Lib Dems want to see bold action to tackle Bath’s toxic air and we have long supported the idea of a Clean Air Zone.
“We were keen to see proposals that would not unfairly burden those who are hard-pressed, whilst still bringing the health benefits we need.
“There is much to welcome around the Clean Air Zone decision. Retrofitting by local bus companies, extended hours at park and ride sites with secure overnight parking, and the tweaking of the boundaries in response to residents’ concerns; these are all clear improvements.
“However, we are concerned that the class C scheme itself, with all its exemptions and concessions, will not go far enough to cut pollution. The emphasis is that travel by car is still the default.
“Where are the incentives to change behaviour or the support for residents to make more sustainable transport choices?
“Essentially, this scheme appears to do the absolute minimum to reach ‘compliance’ with the government’s instructions, without looking at the whole picture of transport choices, climate change, health and the regional context.
“It’s also a cause for concern that the Leader has said ‘if it doesn’t work, we will change it’. Many fear this decision has been taken with the forthcoming elections in mind, and that wider restrictions could be brought back into the picture later on.”
Clean Air spokesperson, Councillor Richard Samuel, said: “Last year we were told that a Class D zone, including older cars in the charges, was the only solution that would reach ‘compliance’. Now the figures have been changed and the Cabinet says cars can continue to travel around the city without affecting the success of the CAZ.
“How is this possible, given that cars contribute 30% to 45% of NO2 emissions? It’s extremely concerning that we are being asked to have complete confidence in a statistical model which just barely predicts a successful result. Surely decisions should err on the side of caution in environmental matters?
“In my opinion there should be an independent review of the data used to back up today’s Cabinet decision. Until this is done, the decision must be considered unsound and local residents can have little confidence that this Conservative Cabinet is taking effective action to reduce health risks in the near future.”
Following the decision on Tuesday, more detailed information on the scheme including bids for funding will now be sent to central government.
After receiving approvals and funding needed, the council will then start the formal processes for implementing the scheme including any required consultation, with the aim of the scheme starting in December 2020.