Councillors' 'blood boiling' over effect of Bath Clean Air Zone on Wiltshire towns

Councillors say a lot of work has been done to improve air quality in Wiltshire towns, but it's likely to get worse again now.

Councillors say their blood is boiling over the future impact of Bath's Clean Air Zone on towns and village in Wiltshire.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (16 March), they spoke passionately about the effects of the newly imposed zone in Bath - which they believe will force high polluting lorries to drive through west Wiltshire.

The deputy leader of Wiltshire Council, Richard Clewer, described how the possible ramifications make his blood boil.

Cllr Clewer said a lot had been done to improve the air quality in towns such as Bradford on Avon, but added that the Clean Air Zone simply pushed air quality issues faced by Bath onto Wiltshire.

He said: “The idea that a Lib Dem authority turns around and says ‘to keep our relatively affluent residents happy and reduce air pollution’ and I accept they need to do that but to push the pollution down onto less affluent towns like Trowbridge and Westbury, I think is utterly unacceptable.

“I hope that we use every tool at our disposal, including judicial review if needed, to try and sort out a poorly thought through policy which as far as I can see has not met any of the tests required for it.”

Councillors are worried some drivers will try and avoid the charges by driving through Wiltshire.

Gordon King, a Liberal Democrat councillor representing Westbury East, said his blood also boiled, but that work on the Clean Air Zone began long before the Liberal Democrat’s came into power in Bath & North East Somerset.

Cllr King said they were told it would be a 25 per cent increase in HVG traffic in Westbury but said it was more like a continual chain running through the A350.

“Almost nose to tail, on an almost 10 hour basis every single day and our air quality is suffering as a consequence,” he said. He then urged the cabinet to find a solution to the problems arising from the CAZ.

Cllr Bridget Wayman said that because of a weight limit imposed on Cleveland Bridge in Bath due to a failed safety test – before the first lockdown – higher polluting traffic was forced to divert onto Wiltshire roads.

She added the council had supported BANES while the repair works were completed but now believes the Clean Air Zone has made the situation a permanent one.

It was said that Bath and North East Somerset Council had agreed to monitor the impact of the CAZ on Wiltshire towns but the DEFRA funding only covered monitoring within the zone.

“The lack of willingness to cooperate on the part of BANES is absolutely disgraceful,” Cllr Bridget Wayman said.

“One authority simply can’t dump its air quality problem onto another authority.”

Leader of the council, Philip Whitehead said a basic requirement of the DEFRA Clean Air Zone scheme is that there is no displacement onto other areas.

He said the CAZ means the traffic looking to avoid the £100 per day fee will now look to west Wiltshire towns and villages “not designed to cope with it” as alternatives.

“We have raised this with our own MPs and we will continue to do so. My biggest concern is that DEFRA’s attitude that you only have to measure the impact locally means that Bath Council will say this has been a great success,” he said.

“But no one is setting up those measurements in the surrounding areas. You cannot trumpet the success of something in a city when it has been a detriment to the surrounding areas.”

Credit: Matthew McLaughlin, The Local Democracy Reporting Service

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