Bristol’s clean air

Clean air is our absolute priority. And clean air starts at home.

If we work together we can achieve a cleaner, safer Bristol for everyone.

Covid-19  has meant we’re all travelling in new ways and adopting new working patterns.

If we build on these changes we could achieve clean air in the city without having to put a charging zone in place.

Small and simple ways you can help

  • Try walking the kids to school as much as possible, but at least twice a week.
  • Limit use of wood burning stoves and don’t burn wood on an open fire.
  • Get the bus into the city centre.
  • Walk, cycle or get the bus whenever you can.
  • Recycle your waste. Never burn it.
  • Walk to the shops if you only need a few things.

If we start with small changes we can all make a big difference.

Clean Air Zone

Some cities with air quality levels above legal limits have been directed to charge vehicles to drive in certain areas.

We don’t want to do this unless we have to, as we know some people rely on their vehicles and charging impacts the lowest income families the most.

Covid-19 has changed the way we live and travel. Fewer cars on our roads has made the air we breathe much better and we’ve fast tracked changes to improve traffic, cycles and walking routes.

But if air quality goes back to the way it was, we’d need to put in a vehicle charging zone to improve it again. Together, we can achieve better air without charging.


Why did we consult again in 2020?

We held a consultation from 8 October to 13 December 2020. Your feedback will help to decide on the best option of reducing air pollution from traffic in Bristol. We’ll implement the option that gets us to legal limits the quickest and that could mean a charging zone.

The new proposals set out options to meet our legal duties and reflect recent traffic changes we’ve made because of Covid-19.

If we have to implement a charging zone we’re proposing one of two options:

Option 1 A Clean Air Zone covering a small area of central Bristol where older, more polluting commercial vehicles and private cars would pay to drive in the zone. On the map this is referred to as ‘small CAZ D’.

Option 2 Is Option 1 plus a larger charging zone where older, more polluting commercial vehicles but not private cars would be charged to drive in the zone. On the map this is referred to as ‘medium CAZ C’.

Let’s keep working together to make Bristol’s air cleaner and healthier for everyone. We can all make a difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Clean Air Zone is a specific location where immediate action is taken to improve air quality and health. It aims to reduce public exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by enforcing restrictions on the highest polluting vehicles to encourage use of cleaner vehicles and more sustainable travel choices.

Toxic fumes are harmful to our health. We are committed to cleaning up Bristol’s air to ensure everyone can live and work in a healthy environment.

In Bristol we’re most concerned by nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and very small particulates.  A major source of these pollutants in cities is road traffic, particularly diesel engines.

The council has a moral and legal duty to ensure the city’s air quality meets the legal limits of air pollution in the shortest possible time. This is a legal requirement and something we’ve been directed to do by government. There are specific areas within Bristol that have particularly poor air quality and it is our responsibility to correct this.

If the recent positive changes to how we travel (such as increased walking and cycling rather than driving) continue and Bristol can sustain improved air quality and less traffic in the city, we might not need to charge polluting vehicles to comply with our legal duties.

However, if people’s travel behaviours return to how they were before, traffic builds up and pollution increases and stays above legal limits, we will  need to introduce one of the two Clean Air Zones.

A congestion charge and a Clean Air Zone are related but are not the same.

Clean Air Zones are designed to improve air quality to meet legal requirements and focus on tackling the most polluting vehicles. Clean Air Zones don’t necessarily involve a charge.

A congestion charge does not distinguish between vehicles based on pollution. It aims to reduce the total number of vehicles on the road or within an area.

A Clean Air Zone may well impact on congestion but this is likely to only be in the short-term whilst motorists upgrade their vehicles are upgraded to cleaner models or people adjust their travel choices.

We’re currently analysing air quality and traffic data along with feedback from our recent public consultation on our Clean Air Zone proposals.

We will make a decision before Spring 2021 on the final Clean Air Zone scheme.

If we are required to introduce a Clean Air Zone it won’t be before October 2021.

You can use the government’s compliance checking tool to check if your vehicle would be charged to drive in Bristol’s proposed Clean Air Zones.

  • If the checking tool shows you would pay a daily charge for Birmingham: you would pay to drive your vehicle into a CAZ D in both proposed options for Bristol.
  • If the checker shows you would pay a daily charge for Bath: you would pay to drive your vehicle into Bristol’s proposed CAZ C in Bristol (option 2).

Please note the government’s compliance checking tool is not provided by Bristol City Council, we are not responsible for the accuracy of any data provided. We recommend you recheck your vehicle before you drive in any Clean Air Zones.

If Bristol introduce a Clean Air Zone the city will be added to the government checking tool.

We have no plans to introduce a diesel ban zone in Bristol and it is no longer an option.

We haven’t finalised charges. We will need to set them at a level that would encourage people to change how they travel and improve air quality in the shortest possible time.

The table below shows our current estimate of proposed charges and the types of vehicles that would be charged to drive into the charging zones for both options.

In both Clean Air Zone (CAZ) options:

  • Diesel vehicles which are Euro 5 or older would be charged
  • Petrol vehicles which are Euro 3 or older would be charged
  • Charges would not apply to Euro 6 diesel vehicles and Euro 4, 5 and 6 petrol vehicles
Type of vehicle Option 1 CAZ D Option 2 CAZ D (inner zone) Option 2 CAZ C (outer zone)
Private petrol cars £9 £9 No charge
Private diesel cars £9 £9 No charge
Taxis £9 £9 £9
LGVs £9 £9 £9
HGVs £100 £100 £100
Buses £100 £100 £100
Coaches £100 £100 £100

For both options, the charges would apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week to non-compliant (older, more polluting) models of each type of vehicle. Any vehicle would only be charged once in each 24 hour period. If you live within the zone area and drive an older more polluting car you would only be charged if you made a journey.

For option 2, a vehicle that is charged to enter the CAZ C (outer zone) would not be charged again if they also enter the CAZ D (inner zone).

Either Clean Air Zone would operate 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

Drivers with vehicles that do not meet the emission standards would only pay one charge per day.

We’re currently considering exemptions for low income households, small businesses and taxi owners and will confirm details in early 2021.

We’re working with the Bristol Royal Infirmary to look at how we can support staff, patients and visitors.

We’re also looking at how we can help people with loans, grants and mobility credits.

The world around us has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The way traffic moves around the city has changed and people are working differently which we must take into account when finalising our clean air plans.

Our approach to improving air quality is to not compound the challenges already facing citizens and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’d prefer to encourage citizens and businesses to sustain the recent, less polluting travel behaviour that we saw during the first lockdown and have supported this with modifications to roads around the city that make it easier to walk, cycle or use public transport.

Many of these modifications were to key routes within our potential Clean Air Zone. This has meant we have had to review all of our data to reflect these changes. We have monitored air quality and traffic levels throughout the lockdown and inter-lockdown periods. This has given us nine months of data that we can compare with data from previous years to plan for a number of possible future scenarios and options to improve air quality

Bristol is not on its own, with other city’s reviewing their clean air proposals and, in a number of cases, delaying the implementation of schemes.

We quickly introduced our Street Space schemes towards the end of the first lockdown to help people get around safely.

These road improvements were funded by the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.

The Street Space schemes in the city centre include:

  • Cycle lanes and improvements for buses in specific pollution problem locations, including Park Row, Upper Maudlin Street, Marlborough Street, Lewins Mead and Haymarket.
  • The closure of Baldwin Street to through traffic and traffic restrictions to create priority and space for buses and cycling.
  • The closure of Bristol Bridge and High Street to general traffic to give more priority to buses, taxis, motorcycles, cycles and pedestrians

In 2020 the Mayor of Bristol unveiled plans to accelerate existing transport ambitions to improve walking, cycling and bus journeys in the city centre and help Bristolians get around safely during the pandemic.

Bristol City Council, in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority, has now applied for further government funding to extend and strengthen the temporary work already done.

The council is also currently consulting with communities on several proposals to reduce rat-running and improve air quality in neighbourhoods.