Clean Air Zone warning letters sent 'by mistake' to drivers who have never been to Bristol

Credit: BPM Media

Motorists who live hundreds of miles away and have never been to Bristol, have wrongly received letters warning that their vehicle will be charged when the new Clean Air Zone launches later this month.

Bristol City Council began sending the letters last week to drivers using vehicles that had been triggered by the new cameras during a three-week period in September.

The letters warned them that, while they were not being fined for that trip, they would be if they made the same journey into the Clean Air Zone after the scheme starts on November 28.

The Clean Air Zone covers a wide stretch of Bristol, from the Cumberland Basin, Portway and Ashton Gate, all the way to the bottom of the M32 and Temple Meads.

All three major bridges from South Bristol into the city centre are included in the CAZ area.

Motorists who own vehicles that are liable to pay the charge will face a £9 fee or a long detour around the zone.

A number of motorists have complained to the council saying that they received letters - despite not living in Bristol or having never been in the city.

Ian Hughes, a motorist from Prescot on Merseyside, said he was ‘disgusted’ with Bristol City Council.

Ian told Bristol City Council that after he received a letter from the council about the CAZ area, he ‘naturally assumed’ his vehicle number plate had been cloned.

"Which led me then spending four and a half hours, informing DVLA and two police forces and various other departments, as per (the) advice from UK Government,” he said.

"I then learnt that it is more than likely down to your faulty cameras, which can’t read the letter ‘Y’ and send out these letters incorrectly".

Demanding £300 in compensation for his time, which he said was his ‘cost to sort out your error and ineptness’, he added: "You simply cannot expect to send out these inaccurate letters and then not cover the genuine time costs to correct your mistakes."

Ian said: "I’ve never been to Bristol in my life and certainly will never go, I feel sorry for the people of Bristol having such a bunch of clowns running their city."

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: "The letters that have been sent out to owners of non-compliant vehicles that have recently travelled through the Bristol Clean Air Zone, act as a final notice to motorists before charges are introduced on 28 November 2022.

"The data collected to generate a list of names and addresses to send these letters to, was collected over a three week period earlier in September 2022 by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras set up within the zone and around its boundary.

"These cameras have been in place for some time, allowing our teams time to test their functionality and refine camera settings over time.

"We have been carrying out work to optimise performance of the cameras over the last few weeks and have more confidence in the images the cameras are capturing now than during the three week period in September.

"We sincerely apologise if you have received this letter by mistake."

Christine Davies from west Wales also said she had wrongly received a letter.

"I’ve never been to Bristol in my life, neither has my vehicle. It’s taken all day and hours of phone calls and (I’m) still none the wiser," she said.

Christine said a council employee told her they had received ‘hundreds of complaints’ about the issue.

She said: "Who do I bill for taking a day off, travelling to the DVLA in Swansea, my local police station worrying my vehicle is cloned, to be told it’s an error with the new cameras putting wrong letters on documents.

"The women we spoke to in the council was unsympathetic, saying you’ve had hundreds of complaints today, not only mine. What’s happened is irresponsible to the max," she added.