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 and lockdown has meant we are 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.

Here are small, simple ways that 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 do not burn wood on an open fire
  • Get the bus into the city centre
  • Walk or 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 have fast tracked changes to improve traffic, cycles and walking routes.

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

And now, we need your views on the two new clean air zone options in case our plans for clean air don’t work without charging.


Why are we consulting again in 2020?

The new proposals are to set out options to meet our legal duties and government direction and have changed due to traffic changes put in place because of COVID-19.

We need your input to help decide on the best option of reducing air pollution from traffic in Bristol. Ultimately we will have to implement the option that gets us to legal limits the quickest, and that could mean we have to implement a charging zone.

In the event that we do have to implement a charging zone we are proposing either of the following two options:

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

Option 2 would be 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’.

Please find out more information, and take part in the consultation survey here:

If you would like a paper copy or the information in an alternative format please email or call 07775 115 909
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 locally 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.

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 most concerning pollutants within Bristol are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and very small particulates.  A major source of these pollutants in cities is road traffic, particularly from diesel engines.

Bristol 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 have been directed to do by the Government. There are specific areas within Bristol that have particularly poor air quality, and it is our responsibility to rectify this.

If the recent positive changes to travel behaviours (such as increased walking and cycling rather  than driving) continue and Bristol can sustain improved air quality and less traffic in the city, as we adapt to living with COVID-19, it could mean that proposed options to charge polluting vehicles are not needed to comply with our legal duties and the direction. However, if people’s travel behaviours return to how they were before, traffic builds up and pollution increases and stays above legal limits, then we would need to bring in one of the charging zone options described in this consultation.

Air quality improved greatly during lockdown as we moved around the city less. People are now returning to work and school and the number of vehicles on the road has increased. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have made changes to when and how much we travel. Bristol City Council has also made changes to the road network to make it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport. These changes are helping to try and maintain the improvement in air quality experienced during lockdown.

The council’s preferred approach is to encourage citizens and businesses to sustain the recent, less polluting travel behaviour that we have seen, and we plan to support this with some further improvements to roads around the city that make it easier to walk, cycle or use public transport.

We are calling these ‘Fast Track measures’.

The council is still required to plan the implementation of a medium and small charging zone if needed; therefore we are consulting with you on two new clean air zone (CAZ) options. These are areas where the most polluting vehicles would need to pay a charge to drive in the zone. It is likely that one of these options may be needed if travel behaviours return to pre-Covid levels. The Government has also recognised that we won’t be able to submit a full business case (FBC) setting out our preferred scheme until February 2021 to allow time to consult on the new proposals.

A diesel ban is no longer being considered as an option therefore there are no plans to introduce a diesel ban zone in Bristol.

Our preferred approach is to encourage citizens and businesses to sustain the recent, less polluting travel behaviour that we have seen. We plan to support this with some further improvements to roads around the city that will tackle routes with the worst pollution and make it easier to walk, cycle or use public transport. We are calling these ‘Fast Track’ measures. However uncertainties surrounding the ongoing impact of the pandemic and people’s travel patterns mean we must consider additional measures, in case these are needed to enable us to comply with our legal duties.

In 2019 we asked for feedback on two options to lower air pollution in the city. The 2019 options were a clean air zone (CAZ) in which the most polluting HGVs, buses, coaches, light goods vehicles (LGVs) and taxis (but not private cars) would be charged (2019 option 1) and a diesel car ban (2019 option 2). You can read about the 2019 options on the council’s Consultation and Engagement Hub.

Since 2019, we have done further  modelling and identified two new zone options which would involve charging the most polluting vehicles if they drive into central Bristol. Our work so far indicates that these new options for a charging CAZ could improve air quality at least as quickly as those put forward in 2019.

In this survey (, we are asking for your views on the 2020 charging CAZ options. We must consult now – before we know if these additional options are needed – because we must have plans in place to reduce pollution to within legal limits in the shortest possible time.

This consultation is your chance to tell us what you think about the new options we propose for improving air quality in Bristol.

While we consult, we will continue to monitor changes in traffic and air quality and our technical work is ongoing to estimate more precisely what the date of compliance would be for each of the new charging CAZ options. We will be legally required to put in place the option which is shown by the technical work to achieve compliance in the shortest possible time.

2020 option 1

A Clean Air Zone covering a small area of central Bristol in which older, more polluting types of HGVs, buses, coaches, light goods vehicles (LGVs), taxis and private cars would be charged to drive in the zone. This is referred to as small CAZ D.

2020 option 2

A small CAZ D (as detailed above),  surrounded by a larger charging zone (medium CAZ C) in which older, more polluting HGVs, buses, coaches, LGVs, taxis would be charged to drive in the zone but NOT private cars

What is the ‘test and learn’ approach and how will it affect the Clean Air Zone options?
As part of the council’s new ‘test and learn approach’, transport upgrades will be rigorously reviewed against an evidence base on traffic, travel patterns and air pollution levels.

If modelling shows Bristol can sustain improved air quality and traffic levels, it could mean planned charging measures on polluting vehicles are not needed. If the modelling indicates that the reduced traffic pollution levels cannot be sustained then a charging zone will need to be implemented.

What measures are involved in the new “Street Space Schemes” to help improve air quality?
The Street Space schemes were put in rapidly as we emerged from lockdown, to help people get around safely. The changes were funded by emergency Government funding called the Emergency Active Travel Fund – EATF. Examples of the Street Space schemes in the city centre are:

  • Cycle lanes and improvements for buses in specific pollution problem locations, including Park Row / Upper Maudlin Street / Marlborough Street and Lewins Mead / Haymarket;
  • Closure of Baldwin Street to through traffic and restrictions to traffic movements to create priority and space for buses and cycling;
  • Closure of Bristol Bridge and High Street to general traffic, with access for buses, taxis, motorcycles, cycles and pedestrians;
  • The Street Space schemes are already in place and are not part of the proposals in this consultation.
  • A cycle scheme in the zone to tie in with the new Bristol Street Space programme that includes the closure of Bristol Bridge and Baldwin Street to traffic and lane closures in specific locations such as Upper Maudlin Street / Marlborough Street and Rupert Street
  • Enhancement of the Street Space schemes as required to further improve air quality
  • Closure of Cumberland Road to inbound traffic
  • Traffic gating in areas with poor air quality / high congestion levels
  • Additional air quality units installed to measure air quality

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

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 therefore focus on tackling the most polluting vehicles and don’t necessarily involve a charge. A congestion charge does not distinguish between vehicles based on pollution, but 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 vehicles are upgraded to cleaner models or people adjust their travel choices.

Earlier this year, 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. Info on where we are up to with this is available at:

Whilst this is out of scope of the CAZ project we will align with the schemes where appropriate.

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.

Additional proposals to work with the community and close several neighbourhood roads to through traffic have also been put forward.

Detail is available at:

The world around us has changed due to the pandemic and this has meant that as part of the planning for the submission of the Final Business Case we have needed to review the changing evidence base. There has been a lot less traffic in the city and people are now working differently which we must take into account when finalising our clean air plans.

We have also needed to balance the effects on Bristol’s economy and how to support businesses during this time of great economic uncertainty. It is vital we recognise the direct link between economic prosperity and improved health, and mitigate impacts on those on lower incomes with our plans.

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 are considering concessions for low income households, small businesses and taxi owners. The potential exemptions and concessions have not been finalised. Details will be finalised as part of the full business case for the preferred scheme in early 2021.
  • We have been working with the hospital to look at ways to support staff, patients and visitors to the hospital. Options are still being discussed and considered.
  • In addition to loans, grants and mobility credits, we are considering concessions or exemptions from the charge (if required) for some of those more greatly affected