Bristol Greens have expressed their frustration after Bristol Council has once again delayed the launch date of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone, from October this year to Summer 2022. At time of going to press the Labour administration has not offered an explanation for the delay.
Since 2017 the Council has explored four different schemes for a clean air zone and missed multiple government deadlines. As a result, Bristol’s air pollution is in breach of legal limits and contributes to 300 excess deaths in the city each year, and causes permanent health issues such as asthma and reduced lung function among children.
Green Councillor Lorraine Francis said the delay was “incredibly frustrating” and noted that those worst affected by air pollution were among those least likely to own cars. For example, over half of residents in Lawrence Hill do not own a car or van yet over 10% of deaths in the ward are attributable to air pollution.
Green Councillor for Eastville Lorraine Francis said:
“It’s incredibly frustrating that the Council have now delayed action by another 9 months, despite having been required by the government to start in October this year. The data suggests that 70% of Bristolians think air quality and traffic is an issue in their areas.(4) As usual, it will be citizens in some of the most deprived and polluted areas of our city – many of whom do not own cars themselves – who bear the cost of the Council’s continued inaction, through poorer health and more early deaths.”
“The mitigation measures which have already been announced are welcome but could have been in place years ago as they are in cities like Birmingham and Bath, which have already launched their own clean air zones. I hope that the administration can find a way to bring the launch date closer as a matter of urgency – everyone in Bristol deserves clean, breathable air.”
Green councillors also criticised the focus in the details released by the Council on upgrading cars rather than improving alternative transport. ‘Cleaner’ euro 6 standard cars or electric cars may have lower nitrogen dioxide emissions – the measure the Council is being ordered to meet compliance on – than diesel vehicles. However, they still contribute to road traffic clogging the city’s roads and produce particulate emissions responsible for the other half of air pollution’s health impacts. It is estimated that the health impacts from particulate matter alone cost Bristol £83m each year.
Ani Stafford-Townsend, Green councillor for Central ward said:
“It’s five years since Council unanimously passed a Green motion to implement a clean air zone. In that time, we have seen a lot of activity from the Mayor explaining missed deadlines to Government and kicking the can down the road, but no action. This only creates uncertainty for residents and businesses and makes it harder for people to plan. From what I can see, the plans also fail to address the issue of car use itself, focusing instead on upgrading to ‘cleaner’ vehicles – but this is only tackling half of the air pollution problem, with the other half being deadly particulate pollution produced by all large road traffic.
“The Mayor’s dithering, delay, and lack of communication is costing lives. Air quality is meant to be compliant by 2023. Can delaying implementation until summer 2022 achieve this? If so, Marvin could have taken action in 2018, and our air quality would be legally compliant by now. Instead, there have been around 1,800 premature air quality-related deaths since Marvin became Mayor. How many fewer deaths, how many fewer children growing up with asthma might have been had Marvin acted sooner? More than ever, we need details, not headlines, action, not more delays.”