Vehicle charging scheme launched in Bath to improve air quality

The UK’s first charging clean air zone (CAZ) outside of London has launched in Bath this week in order to drive down air pollution.

The scheme will see polluting commercial vehicles charged £9 for taxis and light commercial vehicles to £100 a day for HGVs and buses to drive into the centre of Bath. Private cars and motorbikes will not be charged.

The scheme is designed to tackle Bath’s air pollution problem which is chiefly caused by vehicle emissions. Several areas in the city regularly exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, even during the coronavirus lockdown.

Daily charges will apply seven days a week, midnight to midnight, all year round, in the first of many such schemes to be rolled out across English local authorities in the coming months and years.

The council secured £9.4 million of funding from government to help residents and businesses, including coach companies and taxi drivers, to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones.

The council has set up a scheme to help owners upgrade their vehicles and already more than 500 businesses have applied. A further £1.58 million has helped local bus operators to retrofit fleet not already compliant in the zone.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras are installed on all roads leading into the zone. Vehicle number plates will be checked against a DVLA database. Motorists with non-compliant, chargeable vehicles – including those from outside the UK – must declare and pay for their journey online or they will receive a penalty charge notice.

Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “This a landmark day for the city. We’ve put up with unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide for too long. This is unfair on residents, particularly vulnerable older people and children. We want to reduce NO2 pollution in Bath to within legal limits by the end of 2021 at the latest, and a charging clean air zone is the only way we can achieve this.

“We know this is difficult time for businesses, but we’ve gone ahead with the zone during the pandemic because this is a pressing public health issue. However, we are working with residents and businesses to help them replace polluting vehicles with cleaner ones and there is significant financial and practical help available.”

Dr Bruce Laurence, Director of Public Health in Bath and North East Somerset said: “You can’t see it and you can’t smell it, but nitrogen dioxide is a hidden killer, contributing to as many as 36,000 early deaths in the UK each year. The high levels that we have in Bath can irritate and inflame our airways and this is particularly dangerous for people with asthma and lung conditions such as bronchitis and emphysema.

“Research has also shown that exposure to high levels of NO2 over a longer term can affect children’s lung development. And there is evidence that children who grow up in highly polluted areas are more likely to develop asthma.”

“It’s vital that urgent and immediate action is taken to protect people most at risk from the effects of toxic air in Bath, and this must include reducing the number of polluting vehicles, which are a major part of the problem. We know that clean air zones are an effective way of doing this.”

Councillor Sarah Warren, Joint Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Neighbourhood Services, said: “The Clean Air Zone is just the start of a concerted effort to promote more sustainable travel. We’re also looking at developing liveable neighbourhoods, supporting businesses to use e-cargo bike deliveries, improving our public transport and encouraging more active travel, such as walking and cycling. Any revenue from the zone, over and above the operating costs, must and will be reinvested in sustainable transport for the area.”#

Image of Cllr Sarah Warren provided by Bath City Council

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