Bath & North Somerset Council is set to move from a Class D to a Class C Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for Bath and give private cars a charging exemption.
A report which will be heard at a cabinet meeting on March 5 says the original Class D option, which would charge all higher emission vehicles, including cars, to drive in the city centre would achieve compliance by central government’s deadlines.
However, following a public consultation in December that garnered 8,400 responses, councillors now believe the Class C option, which would not see cars being charged and would also meet government compliance deadlines, would be more suitable.
Cllr Bob Goodman, cabinet member for development and neighbourhoods, said: ‘Getting the right clean air plan for our city is crucially important and we needed the community’s views to help us make the right decision.
‘Following the unprecedented response to the consultation, we were right to delay our decision so that we could properly consider people’s views and continue to undertake further technical work.
‘This has been a significant task and has now resulted in officers being able to recommend a scheme that exempts cars from charges, safeguards the long-term health of people and meets the needs of our busy, vibrant city.’
Lib Dem group spokesperson on air quality, Cllr Richard Samuel, welcomed the change of direction.
He said: ‘Liberal Democrats have consistently argued for action to improve air quality in Bath. We believe any measures must effectively reduce emissions but must not have an unfair impact on those who are least well-off.
‘It’s welcome that the new proposals will not tax the poorest local residents for access to the city centre and we are glad that concerns have been heard.
‘However it remains to be seen if the benefits of the clean air zone can be fully realised without cars being included. Once the detailed background papers are published, a clearer assessment will be possible.
‘Bath’s toxic air threatens our health and must be taken seriously. On the face of it, the Conservatives are ducking an unpopular decision just before the local elections. Residents deserve better from the Council than this.’
In related news, Southampton City Council also decided against introducing a charging zone for private vehicles and instead proposed other measures aimed at curbing emissions.