Bristol Clean Air Zone is ‘a congestion charge wrapped in shiny environmental paper’ - says motorist

Justyna Kowalska says motorists in the city have been unfairly targeted

Bristol’s Clean Air Zone is a an ‘unfair tax’ which serves as a ‘congestion charge wrapped in shiny environmental paper’ says a woman campaigning against the scheme ahead of its launch on Monday (November 28). Justyna Kowalska even says it is an attack on people’s freedom, as she spent the last day before its launch raising awareness of the charges in the city.

The Clean Air Zone is being started by Bristol City Council in a bid to restrict the highest polluting vehicles, encouarge the use of cleaner vehicles and to get more people walking, cycling and using public transport. Owners of vehicles which do not comply with the zone will be required to pay a daily charge of at least £9 to enter within it. The zone covers much of the city centre, but also the Cumberland Basin.

Signs have been updated in the city to warn motorists they are entering the zone, while the city council has also put money behind a marketing campaign which includes the use of billboards across the area. The city council has previously said that about three in 10 vehicles in Bristol will be impacted by the charges - and that there is funding support for some people.

However, Justyna Kowalska says it should not be introduced. She moved away from Bristol in 2019 and now lives in Bridgwater, but still comes to the city as part of her job as an agency care assistant. She’s run a campaign on social media against the Clean Air Zone for Bristol, citing problems with other zones across the country and claiming it will have an impact on people’s liberty.

“There is a massive, massive group of people who are against the Clean Air Zone in Bristol,” she said. “Our biggest concern is that no-one listened to the people in Bristol on if they wanted the zone, or not. There was a public consultation, but it covered a fracture of the people in Bristol and did not take into account the people coming to Bristol for work from outside.

“I feel that Bristol City Council just hasn’t listened - they shouldn’t be bringing in charges to solve a clean air problem; it won’t work. This is a congestion charge wrapped in shiny environmental paper, and is an unfair tax on people already hit by the cost-of-living crisis. People need their cars and can’t afford new ones, and those people will be targeted by this.”

Ms Kowalska, aged 40, is also concerned the the current class of vehicles excempt from the charge will soon change, with more people soon to be asked to pay the daily rate for entering the zone with their vehicle. And she said that despite the marketing campaign, not enough people still knew about the zone.

Justyna Kowalska says the Clean Air Zone is an attack on people’s freedom
Justyna Kowalska says the Clean Air Zone is an attack on people’s freedom
Justyna Kowalska says the Clean Air Zone is an attack on people’s freedom

“I speak to people and they know nothing about,” she said. “If you don’t have a mobile phone you might not have seen anything on it. Today I travelled from Bridgwater to Bristol and I saw one sign about the zone coming in with little detail attached. More should have been done.”

Bristol City Council has been sending letters to owners of non-compliant vehicles since October 31 to warn them about the CAZ launching. The vehicles were clocked entering the zone over a three-week period in September.

The council also agreed a £42m package of support from the Government which included £1.8m of loans and grants to help people change their vehicles and £32m for businesses to upgrade HGVs, LGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles.

For everything you need to know about the Clean Air Zone, including the map, charges and exempt vehicles, click here.