A one-year free park and ride scheme aimed at low-income households, families with children and regular commuters is one idea included in a package of measures to support a clean air plan for Bath, which have been outlined ahead of a council decision on a proposed charging zone for the city.
The council’s cabinet will consider whether to exempt cars from being charged to drive in the proposed clean air zone when it meets on March 5th.
A report before councillors outlines two options for reducing high levels of air pollution in the city, which the Government says must happen ‘in the shortest possible time’ and by 2021 at the latest.
Both options include financial and practical support for businesses and residents which features more than £28 million of funding for interest-free loans to help owners of pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicles to upgrade, retrofit or invest in a low-emission vehicle.
And households could get grants of £2,000 for pre-Euro 4 petrol and diesel cars to change to a compliant car, with priority given to low income households. To fund this the council is bidding for an additional £6.6 million from the government.
The council is also looking at a one-year free park and ride scheme aimed at low-income households, families with children and regular commuters. Extending opening hours at the park and ride sites including secure overnight parking is also being considered.
Concessions for Euro 4/5 diesel accessible taxis would be extended until January 1 2023 and all hybrid PHV and taxis would be locally exempt from charges as part of the package of measures.
Councillor Bob Goodman, cabinet member for Development and Neighbourhoods said: “While a great deal of work has gone into the technical modelling for a charging clean air zone an equal amount of time has been spent looking at the package of measures that we could introduce to help our residents and businesses manage this significant change.
“Views from the consultation have also helped shape these measures and we are now making a request to government for the funding we need to help make this happen. These support packages apply to both options being considered and are part of a much broader and long-term approach that we need to take to ensure a cleaner and greener city for future generations.”
Councillor Mark Shelford, cabinet member for Transport and Environment, added: “As well as the proposed package of measures around the zone we are looking at other ways to help people out of their high-polluting vehicles, while balancing the need for a vibrant local economy, for example we are making progress with the West of England Combined Authority on a potential mass transit system between Bath and Bristol.
“However there is no silver bullet and I want to encourage experimentation using creative and imaginative solutions. Already we have secured funding for more electric charging points for taxis and are developing an on-street electric charging policy. There are also plans for improvements for walking and cycling routes including electric cycle charging.
“As well as proposed improvements to park and ride, the good news for public transport is additional funding has been secured to pay for the retrofitting of older buses to ensure a compliant fleet.
“Having seen our school children take to the streets recently to protest about their future and the future of the environment these steps are just the start of a greater change that we each have responsibility for and which starts with the need for cleaner air.”
The report before cabinet on Tuesday says the Class D option – which would charge all higher emission vehicles, including cars, to drive in the city centre and which was subject to consultation last year – would achieve compliance by central government’s deadlines.
However, following a request by cabinet in December after a record number of responses to the consultation, further technical work has continued. As a result, a Class C option, which would not see cars being charged, and would also meet government compliance deadlines, has now been identified.
To be compliant a Class C would also mean reducing the flow of traffic into Gay Street, which would otherwise exceed the legally permitted NO2 threshold. To address this, the recommended Class C option includes traffic management measures at Queen Square, with new traffic lights at the junctions with the A367 Chapel Row/ Princes Street and at Queen Square Place. The intention would be to remove the traffic management scheme once compliance is achieved and as vehicle emissions improve.
Public feedback has shaped a number of changes to the original zone boundary. The Pulteney Estate area is now recommended for inclusion and members are also being asked to consider including the junction of Oldfield Road and Wellsway, the Bathwick Estate and Sydney Gardens areas, as well as a proposal to monitor roads in the Bathampton area.
Charges for higher emission vehicles to drive in the zone remain consistent with the original proposal: £100 for buses, coaches and HGVs and £9 for LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis.
Depending on the decision made by cabinet, more detailed information on the scheme including bids for funding will be sent to central government. After receiving approvals and funding needed, the council would then begin the formal processes for implementing the scheme including any required consultation, with the aim of the scheme starting in December 2020.
The cabinet will meet at 10am on Tuesday March 5 at the Guildhall in Bath to make its decision.
Meanwhile today – Thursday – l bumped into the Green councillor for Lambridge Ward – Cllr Lin Patterson – in the middle of a solo protest outside the Guildhall.
With only an iPhone at my disposal – l attempted to find out more.