Looks like the Lib-Dem group on B&NES are not buying the car exemption on the Clean Air Zone agreed by the council’s ruling cabinet earlier this week.
Whilst welcoming “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” the group leader, Cllr Dine Romero, says they 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, said Cllr Romero, “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.”
Meanwhile the Lib Dem spokesperson for Clean Air, Cllr Richard Samuel, added: “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.”