Bath and North East Somerset council has sought to reassure residents over its plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone within the city.
The local authority is currently consulting on proposals for the introduction of a Class D charging Clean Air Zone in the centre of the city, to be introduced by the end of 2020 (see airqualitynews.com story).
As part of the plan, drivers of non-compliant cars, taxis, LGVs and vans would be charged Â£9 per day to enter the zone. The proposals also include a potential charge of up to Â£100 per day for higher emission, non-compliant buses, coaches and HGVs.
According to the council, diesel and petrol cars emit 33% of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in Bath, more than is contributed by LGVs/vans (16%), buses and coaches (32%) and lorries (19%).â€™
However, following an initial four of six weeks of consultation on the plans, the council has revealed that concerns have been raised over compliance with the proposed measures, which would apply to pre-Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol cars, with a number of residents unaware if their vehicle would meet the requirements of the CAZ.
Around 30 drop-in meetings have been hosted by the council, as part of the consultation process, with an additional 5,000 responses having been received as part of the process so far.
The council is urging residents and stakeholders to take part in additional events which are taking place in the run-up to November 26 when the consultation will close.
Commenting, Councillor Mark Shelford, the councilâ€™s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: â€œWeâ€™ve found that many people attending events have come away reassured. For example, some residents have assumed that they will have to pay to drive in the proposed zone, but weâ€™ve been able to tell them that their car is compliant and they would not have to pay.
â€œOther visitors to our events have discovered that they would be eligible for a concession as a blue badge holder, disabled driver or employee of a registered healthcare provider – giving them longer to upgrade their car before charges would apply if a Class D Charging CAZ was put in place.
â€œIn addition, weâ€™re now able to tell people a little more about the financial support weâ€™ve been looking at, which aims to help residents most in need with a grant sufficient to help them upgrade from a pre-Euro 4 petrol or diesel car to a compliant car. This support is subject to a successful bid for funds from central government that is now under way, and it is something we really want to do. Weâ€™re also looking at an interest free loan scheme to help businesses upgrade pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicles.
â€œFinally, we want to reassure people that any surplus revenue from zone charges, over and above operating costs, could only be spent on initiatives to encourage greener travel and transport in the area, which is a Government requirement of the scheme.â€
The council believes that around 75% of vehicles which pass through the city are likely to be compliant by 2021.
Councillor Bob Goodman, Bathâ€™s cabinet member for development and neighbourhoods, added: â€œAir pollution in Bath is a long-standing problem that has to be addressed to make Bath a cleaner, greener and healthier city. While there has been a good turnout at the drop-in sessions and to complete our online questionnaire, I would urge anyone who has concerns about possible impacts on themselves or their business to come and talk to us as part of this consultation.
â€œOur challenge – should this proposal be approved – is to help the remaining 25% of drivers with non-compliant vehicles to switch to lower emission vehicles or find alternative ways to get around that they are happy with. â€œThis involves exemptions and concessions for vulnerable groups and financial support for residents and businesses that need it most, so they can change to compliant vehicles. Should the zone go ahead weâ€™ll provide all of the help, advice and support that people need.â€