Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council has launched the UK’s first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) outside of London as neighbour Bristol is finally forced to introduce a CAZ that will charge private vehicles.
Under the Class C CAZ, which came into force in Bath on Monday (15 March) private cars and motorbikes will not be charged but drivers of other vehicles with a pre-Euro 6 diesel or pre-Euro 4 petrol engine will be charged between £9 and £100 a day to drive in the centre of the city.
Charges will apply seven days a week, midnight to midnight, all year round.
The scheme is designed to tackle air pollution, mainly from vehicle emissions, with several areas in the city regularly exceeding the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution – even during lockdown.
Sarah Warren, joint cabinet member for climate emergency and neighbourhood services, by the A4 at Walcot, Bath
Automatic number plate recognition cameras are installed on all roads leading into the zone, with vehicles checked against a DVLA database.
Funding for the CAZ has come from central government, with the council also securing £9.4m to help residents and businesses replace more polluting vehicles with compliant ones.
Council leader Dine Romero said: ‘This a landmark day for the city. We’ve put up with unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide for too long. This is unfair on residents, particularly vulnerable older people and children.
‘We want to reduce NO2 pollution in Bath to within legal limits by the end of 2021 at the latest, and a charging Clean Air Zone is the only way we can achieve this.’
Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘It’s vital that urgent and immediate action is taken to protect people most at risk from the effects of toxic air in Bath, and this must include reducing the number of polluting vehicles, which are a major part of the problem. We know that Clean Air Zones are an effective way of doing this.’
As Transport Network has reported, neighbouring Bristol City Council has tried for years to avoid introducing a CAZ that would charge private vehicles. However, it is now set to introduce such a regime as early as October.
The council has submitted to Government a full business case for a Class D CAZ covering ‘a small area of central Bristol’ after its cabinet approving the plans late last month. It had planned to use a Class C zone with a city centre diesel ban to cut pollution in the city after repeatedly structuring its plans so that they included more additional measures than a Class D CAZ and therefore appeared to offer faster compliance.
However, the Government rejected this approach, which would not have brought pollution levels in the city within legal limits until the middle of the decade.
In a statement, the council acknowledged that ‘the Small CAZ D is estimated to deliver compliance with legal limits for air pollution by 2023, much sooner than previous CAZ proposals’.
It said it chose this option ‘because it offers a balance between the most effective impact to change behaviours and improve air quality and the need to support businesses as much as possible’.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees (pictured) said: ‘We have a moral and legal responsibility to make our air cleaner and the submission of this full business case is a significant intervention to improve public health.’
As with the Bath scheme, charges would apply to pre Euro 4 petrol vehicles and pre- Euro 6 diesel vehicles, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to non-compliant
Daily charges for non-compliant vehicles are £9 for private cars, taxis and LGVs and £100 for HGVs, buses and coaches.