Councillors have approved plans to introduce a clean air zone in Bath, to drive down dangerous levels of pollution and secure long-term health benefits for residents and visitors.
A meeting of Bath and North East Somerset’s cabinet decided to recommend 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.
A press statement – released after the meeting – also said that the cabinet had approved a package of measures to assist businesses and vulnerable people manage the impact of the charging zone which will reduce high levels of NO2 which the Government says must happen ‘in the shortest possible time’ and by 2021 at the latest.
It continued: “Following today’s decision more detailed information on the scheme including bids for funding will 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.
Councillor Bob Goodman, cabinet member for Development and Neighbourhoods, said: “This is a really important day for the city. Over the years there has been a lot of talk about air quality and I am delighted that at last we have made some big decisions on this extremely important issue.
‘While there is great deal more work to do, I want to once again thank everyone who took part in the consultation, the largest we have had in the city over a single issue. Whatever view people expressed I hope they will recognise we engaged openly before making this ground-breaking decision.
It has taken many months to reach this point and it has not been easy however I believe we have struck the right balance and are now in a position to start to cut harmful pollutants and make our beautiful city clean and green for everyone.’
A report before cabinet said the Class D option – which would have charged all higher emission vehicles, including cars, to drive in the city centre and which was subject to consultation last year – would also 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, was identified.
A Class C will see the reduction of traffic into Gay Street, which would otherwise exceed the legally permitted NO2 threshold. 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 will be introduced. The intention is to remove the traffic management scheme once compliance is achieved and as vehicle emissions improve.
Mark Shelford, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: ‘This has been a crucially important decision and I believe we have the right clean air plan for our city that exempts cars from charges, safeguards the long-term health of people and meets the needs of our busy, vibrant city. Our immediate step now is to write to government confirming our decision and to seek the funding we need to deliver this plan.
Levels of pollution we know will drop as cleaner vehicles come onto the market, already First Bus is retrofitting vehicles, which means this is an ever-changing picture and one we will continue to monitor to ensure the zone meets the city’s needs.’
Public feedback shaped a number of changes to the original zone boundary. The Pulteney Estate area is now included 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.
In response to public feedback, there is a firmer commitment to financial assistance in the shape of interest-free loans to help businesses upgrade pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicles (older than approx. 2015). Businesses with Euro 4 or 5 diesel commercial vehicles unable to obtain a loan would be able to apply for a concession to 1 January 2023.
The council also remains committed to securing central government funding to speed up the move to cleaner, more sustainable transport. For example, the council is asking the government for funds to support grants of £2,000 to help households upgrade pre-Euro 4 cars (older than approx. 2006).
Other measures identified in the report include extended opening hours at the park & ride sites, anti-idling and weight-restriction enforcement, support for revisions to residents’ parking zones and better walking and cycling facilities.”
With the level of opposition – and so close to local elections – the ruling Tory group was never going to include cars. I am afraid Bath is not going to lead the way in finally declaring the automobile a nuisance in its confined inner-city spaces.
It’s a bit ironic that public transport (which more of us should be using) has to pay but all those cars – driving backwards and forwards across the city – get away scot-free.
I always thought there was another way of tackling pollution and that is to speed up the number of streets that can be pedestrianised. A more subtle way of cleaning things up.
Milsom Street and three sides of Queen Square could be made traffic free for starters.
Key features of a Class C CAZ
Charges would apply to all non-compliant, higher emission vehicles except cars
- Traffic management at Queen Square is necessary for the scheme to be compliant
- Charges and charging policy remains consistent with the original proposal (£100 for higher emission buses, coaches and HGVs, and £9 for higher emission LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis
- Compliant vehicles would not be charged:
Compliant vehicles would not be charged:
- Euro 6 diesel vehicles (registered from approx. 2015)
- Euro 4, 5 or 6 petrol vehicles (registered from approx. 2006)
- National and local exemptions and concessions apply.
- Charges for higher emission vehicles would apply once in every 24-hour period (midnight to midnight) when entering or driving in the zone, applying 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If your vehicle is parked in the zone and does not move, you would not pay the charge.
- Interest-free loans would be available to help owners of pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicles (buses, coaches, HGVs, LGVs/vans and private hire vehicles/taxis) to upgrade a vehicle, retrofit an older vehicle or invest in a low emission vehicle (ULEV).
- Businesses with Euro 4 or 5 diesel commercial vehicles unable to obtain a loan would be able to apply for a concession to 1 January 2023 (i.e not pay to drive in the zone until this date).
- Grants of c. £2,000 could be available to help households upgrade pre-Euro 4 petrol and diesel cars to a compliant car, with priority given to low-income households.
- Vulnerable groups driving Euro 4/5 diesel vehicles from c.2006 (e.g. vans, minibuses) and not eligible for the interest-free loan scheme would be able to register for a concession until 1 January 2023, giving drivers longer to upgrade their vehicle. This includes registered blue badge holders, registered healthcare providers and registered community transport providers
- Concessions would be available for E4/5 diesel accessible taxis until 1 January 2023
- All hybrid cars (including PHV/taxis) would be locally exempt from charges
The CAZ scheme, including additional measures, is subject to a successful bid for funds from the Government.
For more information, go to www.bathnes.gov.uk/breathe