Update on Bristol’s Clean Air Zone plans

Bristol, like other major UK cities, is working to tackle harmful air pollution levels. The city council is working with government to improve air quality in the shortest possible time.

What is a Clean Air Zone?

A Clean Air Zone is a specific location where immediate action is taken locally to improve air quality and health. It aims to reduce public exposure to all sources of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), by enforcing restrictions and encouraging cleaner vehicles.

Why do we need a Clean Air Zone?

Ultimately toxic fumes are harmful to our health and we are committed to cleaning up Bristol’s air to ensure all citizens can live and work in a healthy environment.

The government requires us to reduce NO2 to within legal limits in the shortest possible time.

In order to achieve this, following consultation in 2019, Bristol City Council announced details of a proposed Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme.

What are the clean air options Bristol has explored to date?

  • A Clean Air Zone (CAZ C) over a medium area, which charges polluting (non-compliant) commercial vehicles such as buses, coaches, taxis, private hires, heavy and light goods vehicles, but not private cars. Bristol is required to implement this by March 2021, unless evidence shows another option can reduce air pollution faster.
  • A hybrid Clean Air Zone scheme featuring the medium area Clean Air Zone (CAZ C), as above, and a smaller zone where private diesel vehicles are banned from entering between 7am and 3pm daily. The government no longer requires the council to proceed with the option of a diesel ban. The Final Business Case on the original hybrid approach is now no longer required to be submitted on 18 September.
  • A Clean Air Zone over a small area (CAZ D) for all older, more polluting vehicles (non-compliant). This is an extension of CAZ C to include non-compliant private vehicles. Bristol is required to consider modelling and implementing this option alongside considering additional measures, such as improving walking and cycling and traffic flows. If evidence shows a Clean Air Zone is required, the council is proposing to introduce this small charging zone, rather than a medium sized area, if this reaches compliance in the shortest possible time.

What’s happening now?

Bristol City Council is looking at an alternative option to improve air quality in line with legal duties and the direction from government. We have the opportunity to explore proposals without needing to charge or ban certain vehicles. Covid-19 has led to changes in lifestyle, work and travel behaviours, which has cleaned up some of our journeys and encouraged people to change their travel habits. Latest air quality monitors demonstrate that despite traffic levels increasing, the city centre’s pollution has remained relatively low.

A new approach is being developed and agreed with the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit as the most constructive way to refocus Bristol’s clean air plans, It is called ‘test and learn’ approach. The government has recognised the impact of Covid 19 on the city and is no longer requiring the council to implement a diesel ban. This option is not being considered further.

The council is still required to plan for implementing a medium and small charging zone if needed. The government have also recognised that we won’t be able to submit a full business case (FBC) setting out our preferred scheme until next February to allow us to pursue our test and lean approach and to be able to consult on the new proposals.

If after testing these measures a charging Clean Air Zone is still required for us to reduce NO2 levels to within legal limits as quickly as possible, then Bristol City Council would propose a small zone rather than medium area.

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