Clean Air Zone: Record time attempt to get scheme rolled out quickly by ‘late next summer’

‘It is a challenging target’
Detailed map showing the boundaries of the Clean Air ZoneDetailed map showing the boundaries of the Clean Air Zone
Detailed map showing the boundaries of the Clean Air Zone

Introducing Bristol’s Clean Air Zone as soon as next summer will be difficult, but the council is ‘hopeful’ it can do it, a top officer has said.

John Smith, who has assumed leadership of the project as the council’s new director of economy of place, told scrutiny councillors he did not think other cities had put their clean air zones in place as quickly as Bristol has to.

Bristol City Council said it will introduce its Clean Air Zone in summer 2022 after the plans were approved by the Government on November 1.

It has not disclosed an exact date for implementation, but Mr Smith told members of the authority’s overview and scrutiny management board last week that go-live is planned for ‘late summer’ next year.

“It is a challenging target,” he said on November 18. “I don’t think it’s been done that quickly [before].

“However, we’ve been planning for a little while. We’ve started implementation already.

“We’re hopeful that we will meet that target.”

Designed to curb traffic air pollution, the Clean Air Zone will see older, more polluting vehicles – an estimated 75,000 a day – charged to enter a small zone in the city centre.

The council estimates that about three in 10 vehicles in Bristol will attract the charges, which were set at £9 for smaller vehicles and £100 a day for larger vehicles.

Bristol was ordered to reduce its toxic NO2 levels four years ago, along with several other cities.

Bath and Birmingham have already introduced clean air zones, and Portsmouth is due to start one later this month.

Several cities including Bradford and Greater Manchester are due to bring theirs in next year, according to information published by Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Bristol’s progress towards a Clean Air Zone has suffered a series of delays, partly due to the city mayor’s determination to minimise any disproportionate burden falling on low-income families.

Announcing government approval of the plans earlier this month, Marvin Rees said: “We have taken our time to find a way to clean up our air while not adding huge financial strain to people that live and work in our city.”

Mr Smith told the meeting: “The grants and loans process which is a very important part of the [financial] support [package], that will be available from early next year.

“And we are confident that that work and the package that has been approved will enable us us to meet the compliance for the scheme with the legal requirement in 2023.”