People say Bath's Clean Air Zone will be 'crippling' during pandemic
Watch Victoria Davies' report.
Businesses in Bath say the launch of a Clean Air Zone in the city next month has come at the worst possible time as many are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The zone is due to be introduced on Monday 15 March and will see specific vehicles incur a charge for driving through certain areas of the city.
Lorries and buses that are non-compliant with emissions standards will be charged £100 per day while minibuses, taxis, and vans will have to pay £9.
It will be the first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) implemented outside of London but local lorry drivers, such as tree surgeon Mike Stiff, rely on commuting through the city centre.
He said: "I can't afford that and my clients certainly won't want me to pass that on to them.
"The cost of upgrading is going to be phenomenal and with the cost of Covid and everything that's been going on it's going to be quite crippling.
"Despite the offer of grants and loans it's still debt at a time when debt is the last thing you need, isn’t it?"
Bath city centre regularly exceeds legal pollution limits and the excess nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter contributes to five per cent of all deaths.
Road traffic can cause heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and make asthma worse.
The deputy leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Richard Samuel, believes the CAZ is essential for public health.
He said: "Let's be very clear about this, nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel vehicles are poisoning people.
"There has been a huge amount of work to encourage businesses either to retrofit their vehicles or to replace them."
Although the council is offering support to the businesses, the cost of replacing and upgrading one vehicle for a modern, compliant alternative can be expensive.
Maddy O’Donoghue has run a tour guide business from Bath for 30 years but cannot afford to upgrade her non-compliant vehicle.
She said: "We have one vehicle we were planning to replace and we've had to use that money we'd saved to get that vehicle last year to keep the business afloat.
Richard Hayes, director of TR Hayes, believes retailers will struggle because of the scheme. He said relocating may be the only viable option in future.
He told ITV News West Country: "We've been here for 100 years, we don't want to move, we have a fantastic showroom and we're a destination store known throughout the south west. But if it gets to a point where Bath is behind this curtain of cost then we may have to look to relocating, sadly we can't rule anything out."
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