First clean air zone outside of London begins

Rod Minchin, PA
·3-min read

The first clean air zone in England outside of London launches today, and will see vehicles such as buses and lorries charged for driving into the centre of Bath.

Commercial vehicles which do not meet required emission standards will pay a daily charge, but private cars and motorbikes are exempt.

Bath and North East Somerset Council said the move could cut emissions to legal levels by the end of 2021.

High polluting commercial vehicles will be charged to enter Bath city centre from Monday (PA).
High polluting commercial vehicles will be charged to enter Bath city centre from Monday (PA)

Several areas in the city regularly exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution – even during lockdown.

From midnight, high-emission commercial vans will pay a £9 fee and HGVs and buses £100. Private hire vehicles and taxis will also have to pay £9 per day.

Bath and North East Somerset Council, which has introduced the clean air zone, secured £9.4 million of funding from the Government to help residents and businesses, including coach companies and taxi drivers, to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras are installed on all roads leading into the zone, and 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.

Liberal Democrat council leader Dine Romero 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, added: “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.”

Heating and plumbing engineer Mike Crane has run his own business in Bath for 25 years and is due to get a new van next month using the scheme’s financial support.

“I’ve lived and worked in Bath all my life. I’m driving an eight-year-old diesel van for work, but I’m determined to get a better, cleaner vehicle,” he said.

“I’m doing it for my 11 grandchildren, who also live here, because I hate to think of them breathing in all this polluted air.”