Two cities within the South West of England – Bristol and Bath – have been mandated by the government to implement a series of measures to improve air quality in the region. While the quality of our air has drastically improved in recent years – nitrogen oxide emissions have fallen by 72 per cent since 1970 – there is still much work to be done to ensure emissions reach their lowest levels possible. In this article, Chris Yarsley, Policy Manager for the South West of England at FTA, the business organisation which speaks for the logistics sector, provides an overview of what businesses operating within the South West of England can expect to encounter over the coming years.

Bristol 

Earlier this month, Bristol City Council launched its air quality consultation, setting out two options: a charging Class C band Clean Air Zone (CAZ) or a diesel car ban. Under the first option – a Class C charging CAZ – van drivers would need to pay a daily fee of £9 to enter the zone; HGVs would pay £100. And while there is a £2,000 scrappage scheme available, it is only open to private cars, despite them being exempt from the CAZ. The Council has also proposed 24/7 access restrictions on a number of streets in the city centre for HGVs over 3.5 tonnes.  The second option is a diesel car ban which would apply to a specific central area from 7am to 3pm, seven days a week; it would not apply to taxis, private hire or emergency services.

The consultation closes on 12 August 2019 and the scheme is due to be introduced in 2021. 

Bath

Bath & North East Somerset Council is also proposing to introduce a charging Class C CAZ, following a consultation which closed in November 2018. The charges would be the same as those proposed by Bristol City Council. The proposals are yet to be approved by the government, but if passed, the Council intends to implement the Zone in November 2020.

A flawed approach 

In the view of FTA, a Class C charging CAZ is the very worst option for local businesses and the regional economy; we are perplexed as to why both Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council decided to exclude private cars and place the heavy financial burden of improving the   cities’ air quality on commercial vehicle operators. This decision is tantamount to a stealth tax on the hard-working local businesses and vehicle operators which already contribute so much to the public purse and help keep Bath and Bristol functioning by delivering the goods and services that supermarkets, schools, and other businesses need operate. 

Another way 

According to FTA, neither of these proposals – a CAZ or a diesel car ban – would provide the most effective solution to improving air quality. After all, CAZs bring no long-term air quality benefit; due to natural fleet replacement cycles, all vehicles operating in the city would reach this standard anyway in a few years. Instead, councils should concentrate on traffic management and encouraging the use of ultra-low emission vehicles and alternative forms of transport. 

FTA encourages all its affected members to submit a response to Bristol’s consultation and ensure their voices are heard. Please visit here to submit your application: https://bristol.citizenspace.com/growth-regeneration/traffic-clean-air-zone/ 

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

Chris Yarsley, Policy Manager, South West of England, FTA