Clean Air Zone We’ll meet targets by 2023 – mayor
ADELAY to the introduction of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone will “absolutely” not affect how soon residents get to breathe clean air, according to city mayor Marvin Rees.
The scheme, designed to curb traffic air pollution, will see older, more polluting vehicles – around 75,000 a day – charged to enter a small zone in the city centre.
Whitehall had ordered the zone be brought in this October, but Bristol City Council confirmed last week that it would not start until next summer instead.
The delay of around nine months, which Mr Rees said was requested by the Government, will still allow the city to meet legal clean air limits by 2023, a full council meeting heard on Tuesday.
Mr Rees told councillors and members of the public in City Hall that the Government was yet to approve the council’s plans, submitted in February, and needed more time to consider extra funding sought by Bristol to help residents and businesses adapt to the scheme. The mayor said he would be able to share more details about the Clean Air Zone start date, and financial support packages, in the autumn, once negotiations with the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) had concluded.
He gave the responses in answer to questions from councillors and clean air campaigners concerned about what the new timings meant for the health of the residents.
The mayor told Nigel Shipley of Our Air, Our City: “The important thing is reaching the date of compliance in the shortest possible time. That is absolutely the same.”
Green councillor for Easton, Barry Parsons, said he was pleased to learn compliance with legal NO2 pollution limits would still be reached by 2023. He asked when the city would see the technical modelling to support the achievement, despite the nine-month delay to the zone’s introduction.
Mr Rees did not answer the question, but criticised the newly elected councillor on his use of the word “delay”, describing it as “loose language”. Mr Rees said: “If you keep throwing around the word ‘delay’ then people think that the date of compliance is delayed. The date of compliance has been brought forward, and that’s the key thing, that we reach compliance in the shortest possible time.
He added: “It’s not that we’ve then gone and said [to JAQU], can we delay the implementation. We’ve asked for additional money... (for mitigations to) minimise the potential for negative unintended consequences on some of the most vulnerable people and businesses in the city.
“JAQU have come back and said we need some time to work with you on how we implement those.”
In written answers to questions submitted ahead of the meeting, the mayor said the council had applied to the Government for a “greatly enhanced” package for businesses and residents worth over £46million, including more than £32million to help businesses and organisations upgrade to cleaner vehicles. It is seeking exemptions for hospital visitors, blue badge holders, and lower paid workers who must enter the zone.