City Centre Diesel Ban causes concern for local residents

The Mayor has now published his long delayed Clean Air Plan for the City Centre and it is fair to say that it’s has not been met with unanimous approval. In fact we believe his plans are deeply flawed.

His plans have now been submitted to the Government Minister for possible sign off (probably around February 2020) so that they can come into effect for March 2021. We have now written to the Minister ourselves to lay our our reservations with what is being proposed.

Of particular concern is that the model which has been produced has not even been subject to a proper public consultation but represents a ‘hybrid’, combination of two possible options, which Bristol residents were asked to comment upon. 

Whilst we welcome the fact that at least something has been done to progress this matter, and favour non-charging actions to change behaviours (to protect low income households), there is one aspect to these proposals about which we must raise with you our concerns.  This is the ‘revolutionary’ idea of introducing a complete diesel ban on private vehicles within an inner city demarcation sector for part of each day (7.00 am – 3.00 pm) that itself sits inside a geographically wider CAZ.

It occurs to us that there are numerous problems with such a prohibition.  We list here just some of the observations which have been levelled against this move:-

  • The prohibition will inevitably fall foul of the law of unintended consequences
  • A partial curfew will displace traffic and pollution around the perimeter of the inner city area and create new travel patterns to comply with this restriction.  This in turn defeats the whole purpose of trying to reduce traffic pollution.
  • It will create hardship for people needing to access the BRI; Children’s Hospital and St Michael’s Hospital
  • The ban is illogical in that Euro 6 diesel engines are cleaner than most petrol alternatives yet private car owners will be forbidden from using clean diesels within the zone from 7.00 am – 3.00 pm
  • Unlike the Capital’s planned Ultra Low Emission Zone, this proposed ban is arguably discriminatory and interferes with property rights which could be subject to legal challenge
  • The scrappage scheme will not be generous enough (£2,000) to enable people to replace diesel cars, which itself is wasteful of resources.  For this reason, we have argued for grants to allow upgrading of catalytic converters to meet compliance emission levels and retain a vehicle until the end of its useful working lifespan.
  • The ban is fundamentally unfair to those who were actively encouraged to buy diesel to help cut down on CO2  Greenhouse Gases
  • Finally, this specific measure requires secondary legislation in order for it to be brought into effect.  For all of the reasons outlined above, it is far from certain that the new Government will be minded to endorse such a radical move.

We don’t want to delay air quality improvements however we do not believe that what is being proposed is right for Bristol. If the enforcement procedure are sensitive to read a number plate and determine that the car is a diesel and therefore subject to a fine then surely they can distinguish between a ‘cleaner’ modern diesel and a more polluting older petrel engine?

We remain concerned and want the Government to insist on some common sense revisions.