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BRISTOL: CAZ exemptions cut

BRISTOL: CAZ exemptions cut

Source: Bristol City Counci

Promised exemptions from the charges to enter Bristol’s Clean Air Zone have been cut from one year to six months or less, it has emerged.

The reduction means people who would have been let off the £9-a-day fee for the first year of the scheme after it starts next summer will have to start paying from January 2023.

The change is due to the delayed introduction of the scheme and the Government’s insistence no local exemptions are applied beyond next year, a council transport officer said.

But the groups affected, which include hospital patients and visitors, still have a year from January 2022 to take advantage of the grants and loans that will be available to switch to a less polluting vehicle before the exemption expires, scrutiny councillors heard.

The Clean Air Zone scheme, designed to curb air traffic pollution, was expected to start in October of this year but the council has said it is “hopeful” it will start in “late summer” 2022.

Unless they have an exemption, owners of older, more polluting vehicles will have to pay a daily fee to enter the zone. Polluting cars, taxis and vans face a charge of £9 a day, while larger vehicles, such as buses, coaches and lorries, face a hefty £100 daily fee.

The Government has told local authorities they must permanently exempt certain vehicles,  such as classic cars, circus trucks, emergency services and mobile cranes, from paying the charge.

It has also approved temporary exemptions for certain groups in Bristol, including patients and regular visitors to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and other hospitals in the zone, low-income workers who have to travel into the zone for work, people who live in the zone, and Blue Badge holders.

All local exemptions for individuals and businesses will end in December 2022, instead of lasting for a year as requested by the council.

Asked why, the council’s head of strategic city transport Adam Crowther told scrutiny councillors that the government body responsible for clean air zones did not want any exemptions in place in 2023, the year that Bristol must meet its clean air target.

“JAQU [the Joint Air Quality Unit] were insistent that we didn’t have exemptions during the compliance year because that would affect potentially the compliance,” he told members of the council’s overview scrutiny and management board on November 18.

“So if we have exempt vehicles driving around in 2023, then that potentially affects whether you’re going to be compliant in that year.

“If we had started the scheme in October of this year, we would have been giving a one-year exemption, so we’ve actually got slightly longer for people to change their vehicles because they’ve now got till the end of December 2022, rather than October 2022.

“We also have the enhanced upgrade package [to help people and businesses switch to a cleaner vehicle] which will be available from January.

“I think that, overall, you could kind of argue we’ve still got that same level of exemption for people that you won’t have to start paying until 2023 in those instances.”

But the council broke the news in July that the Clean Air Zone would not be introduced until summer 2022, with a promise it would not delay the goal of reaching compliance with legal limits for toxic NO2 levels in 2023, as required by the Government.

City mayor Marvin Rees told a full council meeting that month the delay was the result of the council asking for more money to “minimise the potential for negative unintended consequences on some of the most vulnerable people and businesses in the city”.

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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