Reopening the evidence for Bath’s clean air zone will cost taxpayers £9,000.
The leading Liberal Democrat group on Bath and North East Somerset Council pledged ahead of the election to look again at the proposals agreed by their Conservative predecessors to ensure they are fit for purpose.
The Tories claimed the bill could be up to £100,000 but the full cost has now been revealed – and they still think it is a waste of money.
By 2021 Bath is set to get a class C clean air zone, one that charges high polluting vehicles but not private cars to enter.
The original proposals – which included a £9 daily charge for private cars – were dropped after 8,400 people responded to a consultation.
Sarah Warren, who has responsibility for climate emergency and neighbourhood services on the Lib Dem cabinet, said: “The previous council administration decision to choose a class C clean air zone over a class D zone was finely balanced with close margins around the clean air objective.
“The new council administration wishes to examine the background to the decision to ensure that no opportunities are missed and to ensure that it can commit to compliance in the shortest possible time as required by law, which is why Atkins is conducting an independent review on our behalf at a cost of £9,000.”
She added that the review – which will be completed in the next month – will provide ‘effective and robust reassurance’ that the clean air zone plans are appropriate for Bath.
When Conservatives claimed at July’s full council meeting that the review would cost £100,000, authority leader Dine Romero said the figure was “made up” and she had “no idea” where it came from.
Karen Warrington, who sat on the previous Conservative cabinet, said: “We are glad our pressure to warn about the excessive original cost has been taken into account and the cost has been reduced.
“The clean air plan has already been reviewed extensively by independent parties, including JAQU [the Department for Transport’s Joint Air Quality Unit], and the administration do not have a clear objective for the review so it is still a waste of money.”
Bath’s clean air zone is set to be in place by 2021 to urgently reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide at hotspots across the city.
B&NES Council applied for £28 million in Government funding to mitigate the impact it will have on residents and businesses and last month revealed it had secured £10 million.
The money will be used to help local bus companies to upgrade older buses; provide financial support to help local businesses and individuals upgrade non-compliant commercial vehicles; and to fund a team of travel advisors to help business access the financial support on offer and encourage people to switch to greener, cleaner travel.
As part of the full business case to be submitted later this year the council will seek funding for other mitigation measures to help businesses consolidate deliveries and reduce their reliance on large vehicles delivering goods into the city centre by using alternatives such as electric cargo bikes and vans and micro distribution hubs.
B&NES Council was hoping to introduce an electric bike hire scheme this month but no company has come forward to provide it.
The council is now considering other options as part of its commitment to sustainable transport.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter