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Clean Air Action Plan proposed after years of Green campaigning

At Bristol Council today, the Cabinet approved the development of a Clean Air Action Plan to tackle the illegal levels of air pollution in the city, which has been estimated to contribute to over 300 premature deaths per year. After years of campaigning against air pollution and passing a successful council motion in 2016 which laid the foundations for the administration’s current approach, Green Councillors welcomed the item at Cabinet and called on the administration to take effective action.

A supporting report submitted to cabinet outlines five separate options for a Clean Air Zone, including options for a charging zone on cars and other vehicles. These options will be examined in a feasibility study over the course of the year.

Green councillor Fi Hance, who led the Council’s clean air project during her time as a Green Cabinet Member, submitted a statement to cabinet in support of the clean air plan. She said:

“Far too many people in our most deprived communities are suffering the ill effects of our dirty air.  As the report points out, in some areas, over 1 in 10 of early deaths can be attributed to air pollution, along with many more numbers suffering from poor health. Inner city residents have lower car ownership but suffer far more health impacts from the vehicles causing illegal and harmful air – we owe them some respite from toxic air for which they are not responsible.”

The report submitted to cabinet notes that 72% of people in Bristol consider air pollution and traffic pollution to be ‘a problem’ or ‘a serious problem’ in their neighbourhoods and lists the known health impacts of air pollution which include low birth weight of babies, impaired lung development in small children, and acute respiratory problems and increased risk of heart disease among adults and the elderly. Air quality monitoring points around Bristol routinely record levels of air pollution far above legal limits, particularly in city centre locations such as Rupert Street, Colston Avenue and Anchor Road.

Group leader Councillor Eleanor Combley said:

“It’s great to see that the Green motion, which gained cross party support in a Council meeting back in November 2016, has kept Bristol’s illegal air quality high on the Council’s agenda. As our Green Cabinet member, Fi Hance did a fantastic job chairing the Mayor’s Air Quality Working Group, developing ideas for how to tackle the issue, and I want to thank her for all the hard work that she put in to lead to these proposals. This is also a victory for the thousands of people who supported our #LetBristolBreathe campaign and signed the petition calling for action.

“As the research shows, hundreds of lives are needlessly being cut short from dangerous levels of air pollution in Bristol, and it’s those in deprived areas of the city who are worst affected. Looking ahead, I hope the Mayor will not shy away from bold and effective action to protect the lives and health of Bristolians.” 

Background:

- It is a legal requirement for Bristol City Council to take action to bring air pollution levels below the legal limit as soon as possible, as noted in the cabinet report which notes that: “The City Council has been directed by Government to develop plans by 31st December 2018 to achieve compliance with the Limit Value and Objective in the shortest possible time.”

- According to the report, the main source of nitrogen dioxide pollution in Bristol “is road traffic; with diesel cars the largest source responsible for 40% of the emissions.”

-  Green councillors have been pushing for action on clean air from the Council since as far back as 1989. In 2016 they passed a successful council motion which laid the foundations for the administration’s current work on air quality.

- Full text of statement by Cllr Hance is below:

Statement to Cabinet - Agenda Item 8 - Improving Public Health - A Clean Air Plan for Bristol - Cllr Fi Hance

On behalf of the Green group of councillors, I'd like to welcome this report which acknowledges the severity of the problem of air pollution in Bristol and the significant concern that the issue is for a many of the city's residents. Greens in Bristol have been calling for action on this since as far back as the late 80s so it is very exciting to see plans reaching this late stage.

From my time working on this in Cabinet I’m very much aware that this report reflects an enormous amount of hard work by many officers, particularly Alex Minshull and Kathy Derrick who have put in many hours, dealing with a situation in which the goalposts have not so much moved as galloped across the pitch on a number of occasions. We are fortunate to have such dedicated staff.

We should not forget, however, that whilst the options outlined here are significant, and will require a considerable amount of political courage to implement, they are only part of the picture.  Shifting a culture of car dependency and entitlement is not easy and we must continue to lobby government for adequate resourcing to promote active travel, improved public transport and a Clean Air Act. Residents will also expect the council to be seeking strategic support from WECA to ensure more substantial and sustained investment in walking and cycling to create viable, attractive alternatives.’

Far too many people in our most deprived communities are suffering the ill effects of our dirty air.  As the report points out, in some areas, over 1 in 10 of early deaths can be attributed to air pollution, along with many more numbers suffering from poor health. Inner city residents have lower car ownership but suffer far more health impacts from the vehicles causing illegal and harmful air – we owe them some respite from toxic air for which they are not responsible.  We can't allow this completely avoidable health inequality to continue, and I look forward to some bold, evidence based action from this administration to ensure that it doesn't.

The options proposed in the Cabinet report include:

• a non-charging Clean Air Zone with 17 complementary non-charging interventions

• a charging Clean Air Zone (medium size, class C: all vehicles except cars) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions

• a charging Clean Air Zone (medium size, class D: all vehicles) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions

• a charging Clean Air Zone (small size, class C: all vehicles except cars) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions

• a charging Clean Air Zone (small size, class D: all vehicles) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions

The government has directed the Mayor to identify a preferred option by the end of 2018.

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