Living on the edge: Residents and businesses on Clean Air Zone boundary voice their concerns

‘I’d like to see the boundaries changed to make more sense for how people move around Bristol’

Clifton Vale is a steep, single-lane road which takes motorists, cyclists and walkers up 180 ft from Hotwells toward Clifton.

The road is less than half-a-mile long is lined with beautiful Georgian homes and over-hanging trees, along with parked cars on both sides.

But from next summer it will be one of many roads across the city cut into two by the Clean Air Zone.

The boundary line, next to the turn-off for Camden Terrace by Holy Trinity Church, will mean motorists heading toward Hotwells in older or more polluting vehicles will be set back by almost £10.

Clifton Vale in Hotwells.

This week, BristolWorld visited the road and spoke to Alex Hartley, Lib Dem city councillor for the Hotwells and Harbourside ward - 80 per cent of which will fall within the Clean Air Zone boundary.

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Councillor Hartley faces the difficult, balancing task of supporting the fight against air pollution while dealing with serious qualms from residents living on the edge of the CAZ.

He said: “People are generally quite supportive of the idea of the Clean Air Zone - air pollution is a massive problem in Bristol and of course we need to reduce air emissions.

The map shows how around a fifth of Clifton Vale falls under the Clean Air Zone boundary. Driving to the bottom of the street onto Hotwell Road would set you back £9 in a non-compliant private vehicle once the CAZ is imposed.

“But there are several key elements of the Clean Air Zone with which there are large issues in places like Hotwells.

“The main one is that local residents who can’t use public transport and have to use their non-compliant car, even for a very short journey, would then have to pay £9.

Lib Dem Bristol City Councillor Alex Hartley, Hotwells and Harbourside ward.

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“In Hotwells itself, there are no doctor’s surgeries, dentists or a supermarket. So if you’re older or less able to get around and have to use your car even though you might not want to, you’d have to pay £9 to go across to Bedminster where the nearest supermarket is.

“Drivers also have concerns that the charges aren’t staggered at all. If you car is slightly over a certain amount of emissions it’s a £9 charge, whereas if you’re driving a Hummer around you would still be charged £9.

“The people I’ve spoken to think the charges would be fairer if they were based on how many emissions you emit, rather than a flat rate for everyone.

“And then there’s the problem that while the Clean Air Zone may keep cars away from the city centre, it might move cars around the edges as people try to escape paying the charge and push pollution levels up in those areas as a result.

“For example, the inclusion of the Portway just further down the river will means that people will try to go around east Bristol or head into North Somerset and back across, making a longer journey and therefore causing much higher levels of pollution.”

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Marcus Pinson runs his business Marcruss Outdoors just around the corner from Clifton Vale on the busy Hotwell Road, which falls just within the Clean Air Zone boundary.

The family-run business has stood in that spot for more than 50 years, but Marcus is worried the Clean Air Zone has the potential to ‘kill it off completely’.

“I think the Clean Air Zone is going to affect us a great deal,” he said.

Marcus Pinson, whose business lies just on the edge of the CAZ, believes the scheme will ‘kill the business off’.

“A lot of our customers have vehicles which are non-compliant and obviously that revenue is going to be lost.

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“Parking around here is notoriously bad as it is. At the moment, customers can park up for 30 minutes outside but it’s not enough.

“A charge on top of that is going to either force us to move, which would be a drastic move after being here for 53 years, or kill the business. Then the building will just become another block of flats.

“My vehicle is compliant, but it will affect many others. If you live in south Bristol, say Bedminster, and have to travel to Avonmouth, you’d be charged for going along the swing bridge if you didn’t have the right car.

“People are going to struggle - I don’t know what the answer is.”

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Hotwells resident Trevor George told BristolWorld that, as he drives a Euro 6 diesel van which does 25 miles per gallon, he will be exempt from charges - but relatives and friends will

“But my daughter, many neighbours and local tradespeople drive small-engine Euro 5 diesel vehicles that return 55 miles per gallon and they will be hit with the charge, even though they produce fewer emissions due to their lower fuel consumption,” he said.

Those living in the Clean Air Zone in areas like Hotwells can claim a one year exemption, but ‘after that they will face charges, unless they spend many thousands of pounds burying a Euro 6 diesel vehicle,” added Trevor.

Mr George also reiterated concerns that the Clean Air Zone would have a counter-effect, improving pollution in Bristol city centre but increasing pollution levels along its boundaries.

A map of Bristol Clean Air Zone.

“Drivers heading from the M5, Avonmouth or west Bristol travelling up the Portway towards the airport or south Bristol will unwittingly be hit with a Clean Air Zone charge even though they had no intention of coming into the city centre and that is totally unfair,” said Mr George.

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“Their only way for people from south Bristol to avoid it is to come down the Long Ashton Bypass, come off the roundabout at Ashton Park school, then along Clanage Road towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge and through the streets of Clifton and beyond, picking up the Portway again at one of the Sea Mills junctions - therefore creating more pollution in all these areas.”

Speaking about how he thinks the situation could be improved for Hotwells residents and others living along the CAZ boundary, Councillor Hartley said: “I feel a stagggered rate would have much more of a benefit.

“We’re also getting £42million from the Government to help adapt to the Clean Air Zone and while more than £36million of that will go to taxi and haulage firms, only £1.8m is going to local residents to help them upgrade their cars.

“People are already struggling with inflation, gas prices etc and the last thing they’re thinking about is a new car. More should be set aside to help them achieve that.

“I think removing the small section of the Portway within the CAZ would make a lot of sense for traffic coming north and south.

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“I’d like to see the boundaries changed, even slightly, to make more sense for how people move around Bristol.”

Bristol’s Clean Air Zone is due to start in summer 2022.

You can use the government’s compliance checking tool to check if your vehicle would be charged.

Bristol City Council has implemented the same scheme as Birmingham so if the checker shows a daily charge for Birmingham, you’ll have to pay to drive your vehicle into Bristol’s Clean Air Zone.