Defra threaten Bristol council with legal action unless they produce air quality plan by February

Defra has threatened Bristol City Council with legal action unless they produce an air quality plan by next month, after missing their December 2018 deadline.

The local authority was instructed in July 2017 by the government to provide a final plan before December 31 2018 that sets out how they will comply with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, but with the deadline now passed, the strongly worded letter expresses ‘alarm’ at the news that Bristol City Council has now said they will not produce an Outline Business Case until summer 2019 and would not share documents with the Department for Transport’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) before this date.

‘This means you have unlawfully failed to comply with the Direction, and I am absolutely astonished at your delay in improving air quality for the people of Bristol as quickly as possible,’ wrote Environment Minister Therese Coffey in a letter addressed to Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees.

‘I require that a final plan, in the form of an Outline Business Case, is provided by February 21 that justifies the proposed preferred scheme to deliver compliance based on full and complete analyses including air quality, transport, and economic modelling as well as setting out the procurement, implementation route and affordability of the scheme,’ she added.

‘I should like to make clear that any delay or non-compliance with these deadlines will result in my being forced to consider legal action against Bristol City Council which may include issuing proceedings without further notice.’

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: ‘We are fully committed to tackling air quality in Bristol.’

‘We are currently carrying out technical modelling work to explore fully all possible options. We’ve been clear with JAQU that we will take the proposals forward and we are working to ensure that the potential solutions have the highest possible chance of success.

‘We are therefore looking at the bigger picture including measures to cut congestion and improve public transport, infrastructure and traffic management.

‘Bristol is an inclusive city and we are determined that any proposed solutions do not have a negative impact on people on low incomes. Each authority has different challenges and priorities and we are working to identify a solution specific to Bristol.

‘We already have a number of initiatives and sustainable transport plans being developed so we need to make sure one policy doesn’t affect the whole framework. We look forward to working with government to achieve our shared goals.’

Read the letter here.