A small business owner admits to having to use his savings to cover the costs of a new van fit for Bristol City Council’s incoming Clean Air Zone (CAZ).
Nick Dowling took over the family business, Dowling Business Solution, eight years ago, in 2014, from his dad who founded the business in 1980. Based in Brislington, the company has one van, a 2015 euro 5 diesel model which means it can omit up to 180mg/km of Nitrogen Oxide, exceeding the CAZ’s limit which permits Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol) cars, taxis and vans.
Mr Dowling is faced with either forking out £ 240-a-month on charges, almost £ 3,000-a-year, or placing a £20,000 deposit for another van which can enter the CAZ.
“The council has made it very difficult for us, as a small business, to continue trading. We need to make multiple trips into the Clean Air Zone each day for jobs and collecting materials, they have made it impossible to do this with our current van and I will be dipping into savings to cover the cost of a new one.
“The current vehicle is in pristine condition, less than 50,000 miles on it, but I will have to sell it and take a massive loss financially as I cannot afford to be without a van both for work and my family life as me and my wife need it for personal use.
“Another issue the Clean Air Zone creates is getting rid of it. Despite it being in great condition, no one locally is going to purchase a van they cannot drive through the city centre in so I have to look further afield - none of this seems to have been thought through.”
As part of its £32million Government package to support businesses upgrading their vehicles, the authority insists up to £4,500 is available for vans. However, this is to be used to replace them with second-hand vehicles from dealerships approved by the council’s ‘finance partners'.
The council’s website reads: “Priority will be given to individuals, sole traders, charities and small businesses located in the Bristol City Council area and neighbouring areas, or with premises in the Clean Air Zone.
“You can use the funding to trade in your vehicle and buy a second hand vehicle from a dealership approved by our finance partners.”
Nick Dowling has called on the council and its Mayor, Marvin Rees to sit down with traders to discuss how the CAZ is affecting them and which rules could be amended to avoid businesses going under.
He said: “I would love to sit down with Marvin Rees. There seems to be little help for small businesses, we all agree with the idea of improving air quality for the environment but we have rising fuel costs, material costs, the cost of living is going up and now we have a month to buy a new vehicle or face £9-a-day charges - it is ridiculous.
“I would understand if I had a fleet of 10 vans, but I’m a South Bristol business owner with one vehicle. Luckily I can afford to use my savings but many will not be able to and soon customers will notice prices are through the roof to cover these factors.”