Bristol City Council may become the first place in the UK to introduce a diesel vehicle ban under plans that are causing controversy.
The council has come under government pressure for several years to cut air pollution; it was one of 27 that were named in Defra’s 2017 clean air plans and told that they needed to undertake action to consider the best option to achieve statutory nitrogen dioxide limit values within the shortest possible time.
But although the council came up with a number of possible Clean Air Zone options a year ago, it has missed deadlines to submit a preferred option, citing concerns over the impact of any scheme on low-income residents.
It now believes it’s found a solution and latest plans – currently awaiting approval by the council’s Cabinet and planned to go live by March 2021 – would see the introduction of small area diesel ban for all privately owned vehicles alongside a charging zone for non-compliant commercial vehicles such as buses, taxis, HGVs and LGVs. A car scrappage scheme would also be launched and further measures for tackling air quality through improving and prioritising public transport options have also been suggested.
The proposals support the Mayor of Bristol’s pledge to reduce the reliance on cars and increase the number of bus users.
Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees said: “These ambitious plans demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution so we meet legal limits within the shortest time, without disproportionally affecting citizens on lower incomes which would happen with a blanket approach to charging vehicles.
“Protecting the most vulnerable people from pollution is central to these plans and we have ensured that all impacts have been carefully considered. If approved, mitigation measures will support those most affected, especially those living in the most deprived communities.”
The diesel ban plans have been slammed by motoring-related organisations. The AA said: “Diesel is the fuel used not only by ambulances, fire engines and buses but also essential services such as breakdown rescue, firms that make urgent deliveries such as to pharmacies, that unblock drains, plumbers and others that residents depend on.”
And RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the impact of the proposals on people who currently drive diesel vehicles would be “unprecedented”, and that they risk causing congestion problems where they don’t exist at the moment.
“Bristol has bold plans to improve its public transport system, but major improvements like its mooted rapid transit system or even more park and ride sites are still many years from becoming a reality. In the meantime, many drivers are faced with having to use their car for journeys in and around the city simply because there is no affordable, reliable alternatives. This would become more difficult under these plans.”
He also warned of the financial impact on drivers, including those locked into finance packages and facing significant early termination penalties.
“The devil will be in the detail, but we are concerned that a scrappage scheme would not prove effective in getting people into cleaner cars, since such schemes are designed to get people into brand-new – and still more costly – vehicles,” he continued.
The council’s Outline Business Case (OBC) will be presented at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday 5 November 2019. If approved by cabinet, the OBC will be submitted to the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) on Wednesday 6 November