Cars will not be charged to enter Bath’s clean air zone (CAZ), but vans, trucks and buses not meeting the latest emission standards will.
A meeting of Bath and North East Somerset’s cabinet, yesterday morning (Tuesday, March 5), approved a recommendation for a Class C option, which exempts cars from being charged to drive in the zone but charges higher emission buses, coaches, HGVs, LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis.
Councillor Bob Goodman, cabinet member for development and neighbourhoods, said: “It has taken many months to reach this point and it has not been easy, however, I believe we have struck the right balance and are now in a position to start to cut harmful pollutants and make our beautiful city clean and green for everyone.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said it was “perplexed” as to why the council had decided to exclude cars.
Chris Yarsley, policy manager for the south west at the FTA, said: “This decision is tantamount to a stealth tax on the hard-working local businesses and vehicle operators which already contribute so much to the public purse and help keep Bath functioning by delivering the goods and services supermarkets, schools, and other businesses need to operate.”
The council said that, following a record number of responses to its CAZ consultation and further technical work, a Class C option, which would not see cars being charged, would meet Government air quality compliance deadlines.
The Class C CAZ will see the reduction of traffic into Gay Street, which would otherwise exceed the legally permitted NO2 threshold, and new traffic management measures at Queen Square, with new traffic lights at the junctions with the A367 Chapel Row/Princes Street and at Queen Square Place.
Higher emission (pre-Euro VI) buses, coaches and HGV will be charged £100 to enter the zone, and higher emission (pre-Euro 6 for diesel and pre-Euro 4 for petrol) LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis will be charged £9.
The intention is to remove the traffic management scheme once compliance is achieved and as vehicle emissions improve, says the council.
Mark Shelford, cabinet member for transport and environment, explained: “This has been a crucially important decision and I believe we have the right clean air plan for our city that exempts cars from charges, safeguards the long-term health of people and meets the needs of our busy, vibrant city.
“Our immediate step now is to write to government confirming our decision and to seek the funding we need to deliver this plan."
FTA says it is disappointed that the size of zone will be extended to encompass areas within the east of the city, bringing even more businesses under its scope. “This Zone will not just affect those delivering into Bath, but any operators using the A36 to go west or south,” said Yarsley.
“CAZs are not the most effective way to improve air quality; other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy.
“Bath and North East Somerset Council would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, instead of implementing a scheme that would cost businesses and damage the local economy.
“However, if it is convinced that it must implement a charging zone, the council must take all steps available to mitigate its damage to local business, for example, by ensuring the size of the zone is as small as possible, and major industrial areas exempted.”
FTA told Fleet News it was also dismayed that, while several measures are being considered to help private drivers reduce their need to drive into the city such as improved park and rides and cycling facilities, commercial vehicle operators will be left picking up the bill for this investment, as car drivers will not be contributing to the funding that will be made available via the CAZ charge.
However, in response to public feedback, the council said there is a “firmer commitment” to financial assistance in the shape of interest-free loans to help businesses upgrade pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicles.
Businesses with Euro 4 or 5 diesel commercial vehicles unable to obtain a loan would be able to apply for a concession to 1 January 2023.
The council said it also remains committed to securing central government funding to speed up the move to cleaner, more sustainable transport. For example, the council is asking the government for funds to support grants of £2,000 to help households upgrade pre-Euro 4 cars (older than approx. 2006).
Other measures identified in the report include extended opening hours at the park and ride sites, anti-idling and weight-restriction enforcement, support for revisions to residents’ parking zones and better walking and cycling facilities.
For more from the council on Bath's clean air zone, click here.