We visit the Bristol road where air pollution levels have gone up by 40 per cent since the Clean Air Zone

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But all may not be as it seems

In the year since the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) was introduced, air pollution has increased at several sites across Bristol - but nowhere more so than Blackboy Hill. 

The levels of nitrous oxide on the stretch of road at the top of Whiteladies Road near the Downs have risen by a whopping 42 per cent, according to a CAZ evaluation report.  

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But not all may be what it seems. The council has called the increase an 'anomaly' and said it is due to changes to a fast food restaurant’s ventilation system.   

BristolWorld visited the street in Clifton to find out what the local view is on the finding and air pollution in the area. 

Air pollution levels have risen by 42 per cent on Blackboy Hill, but the council says the figure is an anomaly Air pollution levels have risen by 42 per cent on Blackboy Hill, but the council says the figure is an anomaly
Air pollution levels have risen by 42 per cent on Blackboy Hill, but the council says the figure is an anomaly | Charlie Watts

Speaking to local businesses and people, some say they have not noticed a change in air pollution.  

While others say the traffic has gone up on the road, due to people using the road to avoid the CAZ.

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The scheme, which was introduced in November 2022 to reduce air pollution, has raised more than £26m in its first year of operation.  

Malcolm Chandler, who has run Blackboy Hill Cycles for 40 years, said he “can’t understand” the rise in the area.

He told BristolWorld: “I think what they’re trying to do is make the zone different. I think they want to expand the CAZ and bring it further up the bottom of the hill.    

“It might help as people would park on the Downs and they could have a fold-up bike in the boot. I think it is a good thing.”  

     

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Malcolm Chandler, of Blackboy Hill Cycles, is suspicious that the council wants to expand the Clean Air Zone  Malcolm Chandler, of Blackboy Hill Cycles, is suspicious that the council wants to expand the Clean Air Zone
Malcolm Chandler, of Blackboy Hill Cycles, is suspicious that the council wants to expand the Clean Air Zone | Charlie Watts

From the city centre, the CAZ goes as far as halfway up Park Street, not covering Queen’s Road, Whiteladies Road or Blackboy Hill.  

The council’s head on city transport, Adam Crothwer, has admitted the Clean Air Zone is pushing more cars onto nearby roads just outside the area “as expected”. 

But on the rise in Blackboy Hill, he said: “Basically, a kebab shop opened up and was sending lots of fumes to where the detector was.”      

The takeaways on the street include Miss Millie’s, fish and fish chop Fishers, and Mr Doner. It is not clear what establishment Mr Crowther is referring to.     

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Local contractor George Wawn, from Cotham, believes the Asda petrol station on the road may also be contributing to the rise in air pollution.     

“The CAZ doesn’t affect me as my car is a zone compliant,” he said. 

“But look at the garage, that’s got to be a hotspot; people running their engine in queues.”    

Wawn suggests the 20mph speed limit could also be contributing to the increase, with drivers using lower gears.

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Blackboy Hill locals have suggested the Asda petrol station on the street could be responsible for high pollution levels in the area Blackboy Hill locals have suggested the Asda petrol station on the street could be responsible for high pollution levels in the area
Blackboy Hill locals have suggested the Asda petrol station on the street could be responsible for high pollution levels in the area | Charlie Watts

Another local worker added: “Traffic has gone up on the road, people are trying to divert the CAZ, parking on the Downs and walking down.”    

In 2022, Blackboy Hill was within legal limits for air quality, but last year measured an average of 51.4 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air. 

Air pollution levels have fallen on average across the city by 9.7 per cent, with some areas falling by over 20 per cent - but a few parts of the city have got worse.     

For example one site on Gloucester Road increased by 14.1 per cent - but the change on Blackboy Hills remains unclear.

Bristol City Council has been contacted for comment on numerous occasions, but is yet to provide a response.

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