Air pollution plans to help Bath breathe20 Apr 2018
Options, which involve charging high-emission vehicles to drive into the centre of Bath, are under review after Bath and North East Somerset Council was asked take urgent action to reduce harmful nitrogen dioxide levels in the city.
Along with 27 other authorities the council is required by Government to take action in the shortest possible time and by 2021 at the latest. This requirement is part of the National Air Quality Action Plan and is based on the best scientific evidence.
No decisions have been made at this time but the council is legally bound to reach a decision on a preferred package of measures by December and it is seeking people’s views.
According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, air pollution is believed to be a contributory factor to some 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. There is also evidence that it can cause lung damage in babies and children, and contribute to lung and heart disease in older people.
So far the council has already assessed and drawn on more than 60 suggestions to improve air quality put forward by the public during a consultation on Bath’s air quality last year.
From this it has drawn up a shortlist of three packages of measures which are capable of reducing vehicle emissions and bringing about the required improvement by the 2021 deadline. All three include a clean air charging zone in the centre of Bath alongside a range of other measures to encourage greener modes of travel. However, different types of vehicles would be charged under each of the three options.
A clean air charging zone means drivers of high-emission vehicles are charged when entering a specific geographic zone. The aim is to reduce air pollution and improve health. Revenue from the zone is used to run the scheme and any extra may be used to support greener modes of travel depending on government decisions.
A small zone is being proposed for Bath in order to achieve the greatest benefit in terms of reducing air pollution across the city with the least impact on residents and the economy.
The council is seeking views on the options and how they could best be introduced in order to maximise the air quality benefits, while minimising any effects of residents and economy, particularly on low income families and businesses. Suggestions include reduced cost of residents’ parking permits for low-emission vehicles; improved public transport facilities; better walking and cycling routes and making the bus lane on London Road permanent.
Details about costs, charging hours and which groups of high-emission vehicles will be affected will be modelled and considered following a series of public events being held over the coming months.
Councillor Bob Goodman, (Conservative, Combe Down) cabinet member for development and neighbourhoods, said: “There is no doubt the air pollution has an adverse impact on people’s health. Like many councils up and down the country we have to address these NO2 levels and we have do to that in the shortest possible time and by 2021 at the latest.
“We want to strike a balance with a package that can deliver the most benefit to local people in terms of improved air quality, with the least impact on residents and the economy within the deadline to reduce NO2.
“We are legally bound to reduce levels of N02 in line with the government’s requirements. As such, one of the three options for a Clean Air Zone would involve charging certain types of cars to drive into the centre of Bath, whilst the other two options would only affect other types of vehicles such as HGVs, buses, coaches and taxis. As these three options illustrate, it may be possible for us to achieve the required air quality improvements without the need to charge cars, however further detailed work has to be done before a final package is agreed later this year”.
“We cannot do this alone and in finalising our proposals we will need to work with residents, business and other organisations to develop a package of measures that is in the best interests of the city. If our residents, businesses and visitors embrace these changes to encourage low emission vehicles or the use of alternative ways to get into the city centre we can expect to see sustainable improvements for future generations.”
The council does not set the criteria for the types of vehicles that will be charged, it is a national standard set by the government based on scientific evidence and published in its Clean Air Zone Framework. Depending on the class of Clean Air Zone which is eventually agreed, the following non-compliant vehicles will be charged: pre-Euro 4 petrol engines (approx. pre-2006) and pre-Euro 6 diesel engines (approx. pre-2015).
Vehicles meeting Euro 4 petrol and Euro 6 diesel emission standards will be exempt as will electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Other discounts and exemptions will be considered as part of the assessment process.
To find out about an engine’s emission standard people can use on online checker but the council is recommending people contact their vehicle retailer or manufacturer to confirm.
Councillor Mark Shelford, (Conservative, Lyncombe) cabinet member for transport, added: “Alongside this action on air quality, we will continue to invest in more sustainable ways to travel to give people greater choice and encourage greener modes of travel while also investing in the infrastructure needed to improve travel across Bath and the wider area.
“We will also be working with the West of England Mayor to invest in modern technologies to encourage the use of low emission vehicles and public transport and increased take up of active forms of travel such cycling and walking which also have direct health benefits.
“Over the coming months each package of measures will be examined in detail and this includes ongoing public engagement, identifying the level of charges, hours of operation and assessing the social and economic impacts of each measure.
“We want to talk and listen to people’s views because this will mean a significant change for the city. However whatever option is chosen it will have to deliver air quality improvements in the shortest possible time and by 2021 at the latest.”
To find out more go to www.bathnes.gov.uk/breathe, which will also have details of regular drop-ins and events, how to subscribe to our newsletter. We will update social media #BathBreathes2021
The first drop-in event will be held at the bottom of Milsom Street on Monday 9th April between 4-7pm.