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“People need clean, safe air now more than ever” - Greens call on Mayor to rethink delays

Bristol’s Green Councillors have questioned the Mayor‘s calls to delay the planned start date of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone next year, pointing to mounting evidence that air pollution is linked to greater fatalities from Coronavirus.

At a cabinet meeting next week (Tuesday 28th April) the Council is expected to approve the use of government funding to begin work on part of the Mayor’s proposed ‘hybrid’ option – a ‘CAZ C’ zone that charges old petrol and diesel commercial vehicles like buses and taxis for driving in the city. However the fate of the small area ‘diesel ban’ proposed by the Mayor is unclear as the government is still requesting further research and information from the Council to support this option. Green Councillors have previously raised concerns that this option was complicated and unworkable and could cause delays.

Mayor Rees is now lobbying the government to allow him to postpone the start date of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone, not currently due to commence until April 2021. The latest update from the government made clear it still expects Bristol to meet this deadline. Due to the impact of coronavirus on the economy the government has already advised cities which were due to launch Clean Air Zones in 2020 to delay their launch until January 2021 (2-3 months before Bristol’s expected start). During the pandemic, local business leaders in Bristol have re-stated their support for clean air measures (see notes below).

Green Councillors in Bristol have urged the Mayor to avoid further delays, pointing to the importance of clean and safe air for health, and noting reports of a link between numbers of coronavirus deaths and poor air quality. Leader of the Green Group, Councillor Eleanor Combley, said:

“It would be understandable if some of the Council’s work is delayed due to the impact of the pandemic on key staff or absence levels, but it is not clear why the Mayor is calling for a delay in actually launching Bristol’s Clean Air Zone next year.

“The Government have instructed other councils to wait to start their Clean Air Zones until January 2021. However, because Bristol has repeatedly delayed work and missed deadlines, our Clean Air Zone was not due to launch until months later. Any delays in cleaning up our air will cost more lives in Bristol, at a rate of about 300 each year. Where is the evidence that a further delay is needed?

“Despite the pandemic, business leaders in Bristol have recently confirmed their support for measures to tackle air pollution. Polling consistently shows that a majority of the public, especially in cities, are in favour of such charging zones. And there is no doubt about the strength of evidence from transport and public health experts about the importance of safe, clean air. The Mayor needs to stop listening to a few select advisers and catch up with the rest of us. 

“People need to breathe clean, safe air to stay healthy. We know that air pollution in the UK kills over 40,000 people in an average year – worryingly, we are now seeing growing evidence that polluted air makes it harder for people to fight off and recover from Covid-19 and is linked to more deaths from the disease. People need clean, safe air now more than ever.”

Notes

- Following the Mayor’s call for a delay to protect businesses in local media, James Durie of Business West posted on social media about “the need for clean air” to be “at the centre” of recovering from coronavirus (). Gavin Bridge, director of property developer Cubex, has also called for clean air measures in Bristol after the pandemic.

- Business West support what’s called a ‘CAZ D’ – a charging zone targeting all the most polluting vehicles whatever the type, rather than the Mayor’s ‘hybrid’ option of a small area diesel ban in the centre and a larger zone which charges commercial vehicles. Green Councillors support a ‘CAZ D’ option as it is line with other UK cities and reduces more air pollution than the Council’s current option (targeting both particulate emissions and Nitrogen oxide rather than just the latter), and would be simpler to understand, implement, and apply potential mitigation measures.

- See cabinet reports here for more information, including the latest letter to the Council from the government.

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