Bristol presents clean air zone options

Councillors in Bristol have been presented a series of options for the establishment of a clean air zone in the city, which will be discussed at a cabinet meeting later today (6 March).

The city council is one of 23 authority’s named within the government’s July 2017 Air Quality Plan to bring forward options to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in line with EU air quality targets within the soonest timeframe possible.

Bristol city council is examining options for a clean air zone to be established in the city

A number of options had been expected to be presented by the council last summer — but the council decided to defer a decision on the plans until this month — after having opted to carry out further investigation into the necessary measures to reduce air quality in the city (see story).

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, councillors are expected to approve the submission of a Strategic Outline Plan to the government, outlining the policies proposals being considered to bring the city into compliance with the EU limits, as well as the level of funding needed to implement the proposals.

This includes a series of options based around either a small or medium-sized ‘Class C’ or ‘Class D’ charging clean air zone in the centre of the city, which would levy a charge for the use of buses and coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles, heavy and lights goods vehicles, and potentially also private cars. A fifth option to establish a non-charging clean air zone is also included among the options.


In a report submitted ahead of the meeting, the council has stated: “The initial analysis of the options has assessed them against the requirement to deliver compliance with nitrogen dioxide limit values and objectives in the “shortest possible time”. The 5 options recommended for further assessment above are estimated to achieve compliance in 2023.

“In considering the long list of options we have carefully considered the option of a large zone which covers the whole of the Bristol urban area to the M4 and M5 including areas of Bristol city council and South Gloucestershire council. Several stakeholders identified this as their preferred option. However it has not been chosen as an option to progress to the next phase of the study because the time taken to implement the zone which would mean that it would not achieve compliance with the nitrogen dioxide Limit Values and Objectives in the “shortest possible time”.”

According to the city council, around 40% of NOx emissions in central Bristol are estimated to come from diesel cars, with 23% from diesel light goods vehicles and 22% from buses and coaches.


Campaign group Friends of the Earth is seeking to put pressure on the council to implement a large charging clean air zone incorporating private cars as well as commercial vehicles, as well as support for measures to take some of the more polluting vehicles off the road.

Proposals for large, medium and small sized Clean Air Zones have been considered for Bristol

In a statement, Siôn Elis Williams, Friends of the Earth Regional Campaigner for South West England, said: “Friends of the Earth wants to see a large Clean Air Zone in Bristol because it’s the best way to improve public health for everyone in the city, and is deeply concerned that this option will be ruled out on Tuesday.

“We also want to make sure that a thorough and transparent equalities impact assessment is carried out for each of the options presented, as well as for those that are ruled out.

“An effective Clean Air Zone for the city would finally lead to fewer, and cleaner, vehicles on our roads, safer streets, more welcoming neighbourhoods and, vitally, a healthier population in Bristol. We’re calling on Bristol city council to seek the views of all Bristolians, at least before narrowing down to a single preferred option, but we also need to see more from the UK Government — which is failing to support local authorities on air pollution.”

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