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CLEAN AIR ZONE: Pollution fears in the suburbs

CLEAN AIR ZONE: Pollution fears in the suburbs

Image: LDRS

Fears that “dirty” cars will avoid Bristol’s Clean Air Zone pushing pollution into the suburbs were raised as the plans were signed off by city leaders.

The city council’s plans for a CAZ were rubber-stamped by the ruling Labour administration on Thursday, February 25.

If the plans are approved by the Government, higher polluting vehicles will be charged to enter a central area stretching from the Portway to the M32 from the end of October.

Cars, taxis and vans will be charged £9 a day, and buses and lorries will have to pay £100 a day, if they do not comply with minimum standards for harmful emissions.

The boot-shaped Clean Air Zone is bordered by several suburbs, including Ashton Gate and Southville to the south and St Pauls and Cotham to the north.

Residents and scrutiny councillors sought assurances before the plan was signed off last week that Bristol City Council was taking steps to ensure that residents in suburbs surrounding the CAZ would not be adversely affected by extra pollution, traffic and parking as a result of the zone.

Worse pollution in Southville and Windmill Hill, parking problems in Ashton Vale and Ashton Gate, “rat runs” through Totterdown, and heavy “dirty” traffic on “ill-suited” roads in Sea Mills, Southmead and Cotham were among the potential concerns raised.

The council is under a legal obligation to reduce the city’s levels of the harmful traffic pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to within legal limits “in the shortest possible time”.

The Government has demanded Bristol put in place a CAZ by October 29.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said pollution will not exceed legal limits on any road in the city as a result of the CAZ, and the city was “driving forward” with introducing ‘liveable neighbourhoods’ to tackle rat runs around the zone.

Southville resident Berney Sharp said: “The residents of Southville will suffer more pollution as a result of the CAZ introduction as well as bearing the cost of over £1,000 to replace vehicles or pay the charge if public transport’s not possible.

“This really affects people’s lives.

“The project’s own modelling shows increased pollution on Coronation Road as a result of the closure of Cumberland Road.”

But the council’s strategic transport officer, Adam Crowther, said Coronation Road was expected to have lower pollution levels by 2023 than it does now.

He said the overall impact of the CAZ was to “clean up” the vehicles on Bristol’s roads, leading to “quite significant reductions” in pollution levels on roads outside the zone.

For example, he said, technical modelling showed NO2 levels would fall by 21 per cent on Cheltenham Road, 27 per cent on Church Road, and 34 per cent on Newfoundland Way.

Likewise, traffic on the roads around the zone is expected to increase by no more than five per cent, Mr Crowther said.

He said about 30 per cent of vehicles on Bristol’s roads were higher polluting, but not all of those would drive around the zone to avoid it.

“Some choose to pay to enter the zone, some choose to upgrade their vehicles, some choose to take other modes of transport, others abandon their trip entirely, and then some of them will divert around the zone to avoid it,” he said.

Several councillors raised concerns that vans and lorries would end up driving through residential neighbourhoods in an effort to avoid clean air zone charges.

Conservative councillor for Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze, Geoff Gollop, said he was particularly worried about vehicles coming off the Portway at Sylvan Ave and driving through parts of North Bristol to get to their destination.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Cotham, Anthony Negus, said residents would face more pollution and road safety issues if “heavy” and “dirty” vehicles started using “ill suited” roads on a regular basis.

Mr Crowther said: “If we see that happening that’s when we’ll need to take action and get them back onto the major routes.”

He added some alternative routes could be closed with the creation of liveable neighbourhoods, which the council plans to introduce.

Lead officer for the clean air plan, Abigail Smith, warned that the council was unable to put in place measures to prevent traffic issues arising from the Clean Air Zone in the first place.

“We can’t massively fix a problem until it’s occurred,” she said. “If problems do occur on surrounding roads, we will have to use some of our funding to mitigate that.”

The CAZ was discussed at meetings of the overview and scrutiny management board on Wednesday, February 24, and cabinet the following day.

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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