Yesterday Bath became the first city outside of London to introduce charges for polluting vehicles, Rahul Bijlani, legal director at BDB Pitmans tells Air Quality News why this marks a significant moment.
In the early hours of Monday morning, Bath and North East Somerset Council successfully implemented a Category C CAZ, meaning that polluting vehicles, including lorries and trucks, will be charged £9 or £100 a day to drive into the centre of Bath.
BDB Pitmans have played a key role in the implementation of this CAZ, and have worked closely with the council on issues such as the legal order, state aid and consultation.
Following various delays to the implementation of CAZs across the country, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bath’s clean air zone represents a monumental moment, not just for Bath, but for air pollution up and down the country.
As Mr Bijlani, explains, although London has had its Low Emission Zone for some time, other authorities have not followed suit. ‘London has always been a step ahead, it’s got Transport for London, it’s got a unique level of public transport infrastructure and it’s got strong Mayoral powers.
‘But that makes Bath’s new CAZ even more significant because it’s not got any of those particular advantages.’
Bath, along with many other local authorities including Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle, were instructed by central government to introduce a CAZ in order to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in the quickest time possible.
‘The Bath CAZ relates to a very specific obligation,’ said Mr Bijlani.
‘It specifically relates to limiting NO2 in line with the legal limits.
‘But I think many other local authorities who have other air quality concerns, even if it’s not an NO2 problem, could look at Bath and say if they can do it, then we can do it too.’
Other local authorities are indeed starting to consider introducing similar schemes, for example, without any direction from central government Oxfordshire County Council is currently proposing a new Zero-Emission Zone in order to reduce pollution in Oxford’s city centre, and according to Mr Bijlani, this might just be the beginning.
‘Local authorities have had the powers to implement charging zones to reduce traffic and air pollution for many years, but in the past, they have been reluctant to use them.
‘I think there’s a possibility that we might look back on this moment and see it as a sea change in the way we think about CAZs. This might be the beginning of normalising the idea that air quality should be protected and charging vehicles to enter city centres is an acceptable way to do this.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay