A delay to the introduction of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone will “absolutely” not affect how soon residents get to breathe clean air, according to city mayor Marvin Rees.
The scheme, designed to curb traffic air pollution, will see older, more polluting vehicles – an estimated 75,000 a day – charged to enter a small zone in the city centre.
The delay of around nine months, which Mr Rees said was requested by the Government, will still allow the city to meet legal clean air limits by 2023, a full council meeting heard on Tuesday (July 6).
Mr Rees told councillors and members of the public in City Hall that the Government was yet to approve the council’s plans, submitted in February, and needed more time to consider extra funding sought by Bristol to help residents and businesses adapt to the scheme.
The mayor said he would be able to share more details about the start date for the Clean Air Zone, and the financial support packages available, in Autumn, once the latest round of negotiations with the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) had concluded.
He gave the responses in answer to questions from councillors and clean air campaigners concerned about the delay and what it meant for the health of the residents.
The mayor told Nigel Shipley from Our Air, Our City: “The important thing is reaching the date of compliance in the shortest possible time. That is absolutely the same.”
Green councillor for Easton, Barry Parsons, said he was pleased to learn compliance with legal NO2 pollution limits would still be reached by 2023.
He asked when the city would be able to see the technical modelling to support the achievement, despite the nine-month delay to the zone’s introduction.
Mr Rees did not answer the question, but criticised the newly elected councillor on his use of the word “delay”, describing it as “loose language”.
“If you keep throwing around the word ‘delay’ then people think that the date of compliance is delayed,” he said.
“The date of compliance has been brought forward, and that’s the key thing, that we reach compliance in the shortest possible time.
“The work we do in the interim to make sure that the transition to implementing the schemes is done in a just and a fair way is really important.”
“It’s not that we’ve then gone and said [to JAQU], can we delay the implementation.
“We’ve asked for additional money…[for mitigations to] minimise the potential for negative unintended consequences on some of the most vulnerable people and businesses in the city.
“JAQU have come back and said we need some time to work with you on how we implement those…without undermining the integrity of the Clean Air Zone.
“But the key thing is that the compliance date is not changing.”
In written answers to questions submitted ahead of the meeting, the mayor said the council had applied to the Government for a “greatly enhanced” package for businesses and residents worth over £46million, including more than £32million to help businesses and organisations upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
It is seeking exemptions for hospital visitors, blue badge holders, and workers who must enter the zone if they earn less than £27,000 a year by 2022.
Residents will be able to apply for exemptions and support packages via the council’s website in advance of the scheme going live.
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