Thousands of drivers face £9-a-day charges if Bristol clean air zone is approved

Part of Bristol City Centre will become a 'clean air zone'.
Part of Bristol City Centre is set to become a 'clean air zone'. Credit: PA

Tens of thousands of motorists will be charged £9 a day to enter a Clean Air Zone in Bristol if the council’s plans are approved by the Government.

But some drivers of polluting cars will be able to apply for a one-year exemption before they have to start paying the fee, and others will not have to pay at all.

Bristol City Council must have a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in place by October 29 and, after years of planning and consultation, it has decided to seek permission for a small zone in the city centre.

The proposed clean air zone. Credit: Bristol City Council

The council had hoped to avoid forcing drivers of polluting vehicles to pay to enter a CAZ, but says it must impose charges to meet a legal obligation to reduce the city’s traffic air pollution to within legal limits in the shortest possible time.

Measures such as the closure of Bristol Bridge and Baldwin Street mean the zone will be smaller than first thought.

Charges will only apply to diesel vehicles that are Euro 5 standard and below, so roughly 2014 and older, and to petrol vehicles that are Euro 3 and below, so about 2006 and older.

People who live in the Clean Air Zone as well as Bristol-based Blue Badge holders will be able to apply for a one-year exemption before they have to start paying a fee.

People on low incomes will also be able to apply for a one-year exemption if they have to drive in and out of the zone to get to work. This group – individuals earning less than £24,000 a year and no more than £12.45 per hour – will also be prioritised for financial support packages under the council’s proposals.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Reese Credit: Bristol City Council

The council is also proposing exemptions for people who have to go to hospital for admissions and appointments or to visit-loved ones regularly.

Mr Rees said: “We’re looking at a scheme with hospitals for families that have to be frequent visitors to loved ones, particularly children, for example, in hospital.”

Most of the exemptions are for one year to allow time for people to upgrade to cleaner vehicles and take advantage of financial support and scrappage schemes.

Emergency service vehicles, disabled passenger vehicle tax classes 78 and 85, motorcycles, and classic cars are automatically exempt under CAZ rules set out by the Government.

The council estimates about 74,700 out of 258,000 vehicles would be charged to enter the zone each day.

It estimates around 27 per cent of private cars are not compliant with emission standards and will attract a clean air charge.

Similarly, it believes about 39 per cent of LGVs, 25 per cent of HGVs and five per cent of buses and coaches will have to pay a daily fee.

The council is asking the government for money to provide financial support packages for households and businesses to upgrade their vehicles.

Mr Rees said: “We have a moral responsibility to deliver clean air, we recognise that, but never forget we have a legal responsibility [to deliver] compliant air in the shortest possible time.

“We will be putting mitigations in place to support people through the transition… We don’t want the burden falling disproportionately on people who are most vulnerable and we don’t want to undermine jobs within the city."

Credit: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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