Se­crecy storm over clean air zone ‘facts’

Cam­paigner says coun­cil hid ef­fects of plan

Bath Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - Stephen Sum­ner & Jil­lian Mac­math Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­[email protected]­plc.com

A res­i­dent has claimed the pub­lic was de­nied a key piece of in­for­ma­tion un­til af­ter the con­sul­ta­tion closed on Bath’s pro­posed clean air zone. Chris Bee­z­ley said a fi­nan­cial re­port seems to show that the only way to make the scheme vi­able is to charge car own­ers, who could pay three-fifths of the fees and fines. Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil has con­firmed that the doc­u­ment was only pub­lished in a redacted form on De­cem­ber 14 – af­ter the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion closed and days be­fore cab­i­net mem­bers were due to make a de­ci­sion But it said much of its con­tents were pre­vi­ously avail­able to res­i­dents and it has stren­u­ously de­nied that a de­ci­sion on the pro­posed clean air zone is fi­nan­cially driven. It says any rev­enue short­fall would be met by cen­tral gov­ern­ment. Mr Bee­z­ley said the fi­nance re­port shows there is “no al­ter­na­tive” to a class D clean air zone, one that charges all types of higher pol­lut­ing ve­hi­cles to en­ter – in­clud­ing cars. If an al­ter­na­tive clean air zone model was adopted – re­ferred to as class A, B or C and not charg­ing cars – the fig­ures do not add up, he claimed. Mr Bee­z­ley said: “Given its ma­jor rel­e­vance to the clean air is­sue, why was the il­lu­mi­nat­ing fi­nan­cial re­port hid­den from pub­lic view un­til af­ter the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod? “Was it be­cause it does in­deed show that the only fi­nan­cially - vi­able clean air zone for Bath is class D? If so, the pub­lic have been mis­led into be­liev­ing that there was a choice of dif­fer­ent clean air zone op­tions to con­sider.” The fi­nance re­port says that over the ten-year life­span of the clean air zone, the op­er­at­ing costs are ex­pected to be £28 mil­lion. Of the £55 mil­lion ex­pected in­come from charges and fines, £33 mil­lion would come from cars – which would not be paid if a class C zone that charges higher pol­lut­ing buses, coaches, taxis, vans and lor­ries but not cars was in­tro­duced. A coun­cil spokesper­son said: “The fi­nan­cial case sec­tion of the out­line busi­ness case was pub­lished at the out­set of the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on Oc­to­ber 17, 2018. Be­cause the fi­nan­cial re­port con­tains com­mer­cially sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion it was not pub­lished im­me­di­ately, how­ever dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion it was re­viewed and pub­lished with redacted in­for­ma­tion on De­cem­ber 14. “Much of what it con­tains is al­ready in the fi­nan­cial case sec­tion of the out­line busi­ness case. The doc­u­ment was not with­held. “Over the past year, the coun­cil has been open and trans­par­ent about its clean air zone pro­pos­als and has kept the pub­lic in­formed at each stage, re­sult­ing in a con­sul­ta­tion which gen­er­ated one of the largest re­sponses the au­thor­ity has seen. “This in­cludes ex­plain­ing that cen­tral gov­ern­ment is fund­ing the de­sign and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the scheme, in­clud­ing any rev­enue short­fall. “Any sur­plus rev­enue must be rein­vested in trans­port-re­lated schemes in ac­cor­dance with the spend­ing plan set out in the charg­ing or­der – this is not a rev­enue gen­er­at­ing ex­er­cise for the coun­cil. “Any es­ti­mated rev­enue short­fall would be met by cen­tral gov­ern­ment. “Fi­nally, to sug­gest the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion on this sig­nif­i­cant scheme to im­prove pub­lic health for the peo­ple liv­ing, work­ing and vis­it­ing Bath is based upon fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions is disin­gen­u­ous and mis­lead­ing; it does not give recog­ni­tion to the com­plex work be­ing un­der­taken to achieve com­pli­ance within the min­is­te­rial di­rec­tion from cen­tral gov­ern­ment.” Mr Bee­z­ley said he was not op­posed to the clean air zone and that he agreed with the need to bring down ni­tro­gen diox­ide lev­els. But he added: “There seems to be a de­sire to get well un­der the le­gal limit rather than meet it. “The le­gal limit is set for a rea­son and there are no bonus points for ex­ceed­ing it. “In­deed, bear­ing in mind the pre­dicted £133 mil­lion neg­a­tive ef­fect of a class D clean air zone on the Bath econ­omy – in ad­di­tion of course to the other eco­nomic pres­sures that busi­nesses in Bath are al­ready un­der – it is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand how those call­ing for such an ex­treme and dis­pro­por­tion­ate zone give one jot for the lo­cal econ­omy. “B&NES Coun­cil it­self should be very alert to this, given the high per­cent­age of its rev­enue that comes from busi­nesses.” Mr Bee­z­ley suggested these al­ter­na­tives to a clean air zone, that other cities have in­tro­duced:

■ Traf­fic man­age­ment schemes to re­duce flows through ‘prob­lem’ streets

■ A ‘mo­bil­ity credit’ scheme of­fer­ing res­i­dents free pub­lic trans­port – with a larger credit for own­ers of cleaner ve­hi­cles

■ En­cour­age early up­take of elec­tric/ hy­brid ve­hi­cles by pro­vid­ing more charg­ing points (in­clud­ing busi­nesses)

■ Tar­geted scrap­page scheme

■ Work­place park­ing levy (ring fenced) on all em­ploy­ers who pro­vide more than ten park­ing spa­ces

■ Im­proved routes for walk­ing & cy­cling

■ Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of rail­way through the city

■ Tack­ling un­nec­es­sary ve­hi­cle idling, es­pe­cially out­side schools

■ In­vest­ing in cleaner buses, coun­cil ve­hi­cles and ul­tra low emis­sion taxis (in­clud­ing Ulev-only taxi ranks)

■ Pro­mote safe routes to school to re­duce school-run car jour­neys

■ Pro­mote more travel plans – in­clud­ing all schools

■ Es­tab­lish Clear Zone in city cen­tre to pre­vent gen­eral traf­fic from ac­cess­ing cen­tral core be­tween say 10am and 4.30pm – with spe­cial ac­cess per­mits needed for load­ing/un­load­ing Mr Bee­z­ley added: “For Bath, of course, key non-charg­ing meth­ods in­clude the miss­ing east­ern park and ride and A36/ A46 link road!” B&NES Coun­cil’s clean air zone con­sul­ta­tion closed on Novem­ber 26 dead­line. Cab­i­net mem­bers had been due to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion when they met on De­cem­ber 18 now it may not be made un­til May as more time was needed to con­sider the 8,400 re­sponses, an “un­prece­dented” num­ber.

Any sur­plus rev­enue must be rein­vested in trans­port-re­lated schemes in ac­cor­dance with the spend­ing plan set out in the charg­ing or­der – this is not a rev­enue gen­er­at­ing ex­er­cise for the coun­cil

Un­der the Clean Air Zone pro­pos­als mo­torists could be charged £9 per day to drive older ve­hi­cles into the cen­tre of Bath and non-com­pli­ant HGVS, coaches and buses would pay £100

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