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Bristol council misses Clean Air Zone deadline for fourth time

Bristol City Council has missed a fourth deadline to submit its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans to government.

The authority was given a deadline of February 29 to submit its Outline Business Case to the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit. However, in the latest twist in what has become a long-running saga, the city council has said that the government has failed to give them direction on the plans, which has resulted in another delay.

In November, Bristol councillors gave the green light to plans that will see diesel vehicles banned in a part of the city centre as well as a wider Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

The authority was expected to choose one or the other but after technical data suggested that they would not reach legal compliance for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for another decade under either the CAZ or diesel ban, they opted instead for a ‘hybrid’ approach, which combines the two to move forward the compliance date to 2025.

It will make Bristol the first city in the UK the implement a ban on diesel vehicles, which would be between 7am and 3pm in part of the M32, the old city, Redcliffe, Spike Island, the Harbourside and part of Hotwells. The CAZ will cover a wider area of the city.

Bristol is asking for £113m from government to fund the measures, way above the £29m awarded to Leeds and £38m to Birmingham for their respective CAZs.

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: ‘Following the submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC) in November last year, we have been working hard on the further modelling work and developing the plans to go into the Full Business Case (FBC).

‘We have been in regular discussion with the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), but we are still waiting for a formal response on the OBC, and any direction on the next stage of our plans. There have understandably been delays from government due to the general election and ministerial changes, but we hope to get an update soon.’

A Defra spokesperson said: ‘We are helping local authorities tackle air pollution in towns and cities across the country.

‘We are assessing Bristol City Council’s plan to ensure it is effective, fair, good value and will deliver the required improvements in air quality in the shortest time possible. We will respond to this plan in due course.’

In October 2019, Bristol missed a third deadline in a year to submit the OBC to government, after Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said they needed more time ‘to be certain’ that the plans are ‘fully scoped’.

After missing two previous deadlines, Mr Rees had been involved in a public dispute with former environment minister Therese Coffey who in January 2019 threatened Bristol City Council with legal action.

When Air Quality News met Rees in June 2019 he insisted that measures to tackle air pollution must not negatively impact Bristol’s poorest communities.

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