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Government steps up legal threat to Bristol Mayor over air quality failures

A letter [1] sent to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees from the Government’s Minister for Air Quality has highlighted once again that Bristol’s current action on air quality is too slow, engagement inadequate, and that options being consulted on currently may not meet minimum standards. 

It further states that if Bristol fails to meet deadlines in September and December this year the Minister will be forced to consider legal action “which may include issuing proceedings without further notice”.

The urgency of the situation is further underlined by new analysis from the charity Asthma UK, released today (9th August) by the BBC [2] , showing that deaths from asthma in England and Wales are the highest they have been in more than a decade. A third of these have been linked to air pollution.

Green Mayoral candidate Sandy Hore-Ruthven has called on the Mayor to urgently rethink his air quality approach. He said: “The people of Bristol deserve to breathe clean air and this letter makes it clear that proposals put forward are far too little and far too late. When even a Conservative government is telling our council to take swifter action, it is clear Bristol must be failing. Across the country, councils, including Labour ones, are tackling this problem, while in our city Marvin’s timid approach means Bristol is being left behind. It is time to put a proper clean air zone in place and reap the benefits not only of clean air but of active public travel, creating communities that have people at their heart.”

Earlier this week, Green Councillors called on Bristol residents to respond ‘none of the above’ to the council’s current clean air consultation, which closes on Monday, due to analysis that shows the two options currently out to consultation will not reduce air pollution levels to the legal minimum until as late as 2029 [3].

Green Councillor Fi Hance, a former cabinet member, has been campaigning for better air quality in Bristol for many years. She said: “Air pollution hits poorer people hardest, and is linked to over one in ten early deaths in some of the more deprived parts of Bristol. On top of this toxic air harms children’s lung development and health across the whole city. But the Mayor has resisted any restrictions on private vehicles use from day one, fearing that it would make him unpopular. Now his failure to act swiftly is again being called out by the government. We can only conclude he is more concerned with electoral success than the health of our children and people in the most deprived areas of Bristol.”

Notes

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/823849/air-quality-letter-bristol-city-council-20190723.pdf

The letter, from Therese Coffey MP, Junior Minister for Air Quality in DEFRA, was written to Marvin Rees on 23rdJuly, but published online this week.

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49277813

[3] https://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/nine-years-for-breathable-air-not-good-enough-greens-call-for-new-clean-air-proposals

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