After repeatedly missing Air Quality deadlines set by the national government, which saw a DEFRA minister state they were “absolutely astonished” and threaten legal action over delays, Bristol’s Labour administration has released new suggestions and timescales for dealing with the city’s air pollution crisis. The new timescales would see a full outline business plan sent to government at the end of December 2019, a full year after the original deadline for Bristol to produce an air quality plan.
Cllr Eleanor Combley, leader of the Green Councillor Group, said:
“More evidence of the stark health impacts of air pollution is discovered every few months. Recently it emerged that poor air quality is linked to a greater risk of psychosis in teenagers and last month research suggested that toxic air may be responsible for twice as many deaths as previously thought, making it deadlier than smoking.
“So it is deeply depressing that in the face of this public health crisis – responsible for an estimated 300 deaths per year in Bristol – Bristol’s Labour administration is going back to the drawing board once again instead of taking the bold action needed to save lives. Under their current plans there’s no chance of any real action being taken until well into 2020. As well as a public health emergency, this is an equalities issue. People in some the poorest parts of the city, in wards like Lawrence Hill, not only suffer the most from air pollution but are also less likely to own cars than wealthier residents.
“But it doesn’t have to be like this. Cities that have got their act together and produced concrete plans – like Birmingham – have already won tens of millions of pounds from the government to implement clean air zones and reduce the impact on residents through funding for a scrappage scheme and support for taxis. We could have already guaranteed this support in Bristol but instead we have had the astonishing spectacle of a Labour Mayor refusing to take action and even recently blaming doctors and health experts for air pollution rather than facing up to his own responsibilities.
“Let’s be clear – these further delays are costing lives. The Mayor should release the expensive research the council commissioned into Clean Air options so Bristolians can see on what basis he has refused to act, and how much longer it will take us to bring air quality levels down under his new proposals. Air pollution is a public health crisis and the Mayor needs to face up to his duty to take decisive action.”
Green mayoral candidate Sandy Hore-Ruthven said: “By not taking action on air pollution the Mayor is condemning the poorest in the city to suffering most. At the same time he is missing an opportunity to tackle poverty, inequality and air quality. By investing in better buses, cycle and pedestrian routes we could be tackling many of the problems this city faces. This is a timid response to a serious problem, a response that is becoming typical of this administration.”