Air pollution causes 140 deaths per day in the UK, and is linked to the onset of heart disease and cancer. It particularly affects the most vulnerable: children and older people, those with heart and lung conditions, and those living in less well-off areas.
That’s the stark public health warning driving us to take action to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions in Bath.
Last year, in response to legal action taken against it, the government instructed Bath & North East Somerset Council to cut NO2 levels by 2021. In Bath this will be done through a ‘Class C’ Clean Air Zone (CAZ). This means that private cars and motorcycles will not be charged, but that most other higher emission vehicles will pay a daily fee to travel through the centre of the city.
A final consultation on the detail of the scheme is about to begin and you can find out more, and have your say, on the Bath Breathes 2021 website, which includes information about support packages for businesses, charitable organisations and individuals.
We believe that the narrowness of this scheme is a real missed opportunity by the Conservative government.
Over many years, Government has failed to give Councils adequate powers or funding to tackle the wider problems of pollutants, carbon emissions, or traffic congestion – in the form, for example, of control over public transport. We would prefer not to charge local businesses. However, the legal deadline for compliance is now very tight and the scope of the CAZ is tightly restricted by Government. We have therefore not been able, since being elected in May, to make the improvements we would have wished, to the plans devised by the previous Conservative Council administration.
Our ambition is for Bath to become an exemplar of sustainable transport in a heritage setting. The Clean Air Zone alone has no ability to deliver that outcome alone. But it is an important first step in protecting residents’ health from toxic air. There is much more to be done in the future to address air pollution, congestion and the climate emergency, and we will be following up the CAZ, using every tool at our disposal, to provide people with cheaper and more convenient alternatives to the car, and to encourage them to use these where possible.