Agenda item

Bath Clean Air Plan- September 2019 update

This report provides an update on the actions undertaken following the Cabinet meeting in March 2019 and sets out the decisions required to progress the project as set out within the programme shown in Appendix 1.


Councillor Sarah Warren introduced this item by reading out the following statement:


Today, we are launching a final consultation on Bath’s Clean Air Zone. Air pollution causes 140 deaths per day in the UK, as well as being a contributory factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer. It particularly affects the most vulnerable: children and older people, those with heart and lung conditions; and new evidence continues to emerge of its adverse impacts on every organ of the body. Areas with poor air quality are often the least affluent areas. This is why Client Earth took the UK government to court to demand cleaner air, and why I marched with hundreds of others as part of the “Breathe in Bath” demo through the city centre on 16th August this year.

In response to Client Earth’s action and the ruling in the supreme court, the UK government required councils with poor air quality to implement clean air zones. Last autumn, Bath and North East Somerset council consulted on introduction of a “Class D” zone, which would have charged not only HGVs, buses, vans, and taxis, but also private cars, to drive into the city centre. There was a huge response to the consultation, many respondents pointing out the adverse impacts on local families of charging cars, especially in the absence of convenient, affordable alternatives. This prompted the council to revisit the traffic and pollution modelling, and a way was found to avoid charging cars, by introducing traffic lights at Queen Square to limit traffic flows when pollution levels are high in that particular hotspot. This “Class C” scheme is the one on which we are currently inviting comments from the public.

On being elected in May, the Liberal Democrat administration immediately commissioned a brief independent review of the work completed to date. This is a highly technical area at the cutting edge of modelling. Any responsible administration taking on such a project would check to ensure that decisions taken to date had been based on reliable assumptions and data, and that no opportunities had been missed, before spending millions implementing a clean air zone. For the record, the review cost £,9000 not the scaremongering figure of £100,000 cited by opposition parties.

The review confirmed that legally compliant nitrogen dioxide levels are likely to be met under the current proposal, ahead of the extremely challenging deadline imposed upon us by government, of 2021. To be on the safe side, we have stepped up nitrogen dioxide monitoring at numerous sites around the district, so that we can be sure that pollution levels do fall as projected, and will have early warning if they don’t.

I want to emphasise that, as an administration, we would prefer not to charge local businesses, but the structure of the scheme, based around charging vehicles, has been defined by national government. The tight deadlines mean that since taking office in May, we have been unable to make the improvements to the scheme that we would have wished – at Queen Square, and to the boundaries.

Alongside the charging scheme, we have so far secured up to £10 million to invest in measures to mitigate the impact on local people and businesses. These funds will provide (1) financial support to help retrofit and upgrade business vehicles; (2) electric charge points to encourage uptake of electric vehicles; and (3) enforcement of anti-idling and weight restrictions. We have also received funding to employ travel advisors to help residents and businesses to access support, and encourage the switch to cleaner modes of transport. Later this year, we will submit further bids to government for funding for last mile delivery, and additional electric charge points.

I want to stress that this type of scheme represents a real missed opportunity by the national Conservative government. They could have given councils greater powers and funding to bring in improved and affordable, comprehensive public transport and cycle networks, the sort of measures you see in many continental cities. This is a huge source of frustration to me, as our aspiration, as an administration, is to see Bath become an exemplar of sustainable transport in a heritage setting. We certainly don’t want our children choking on vehicle exhaust fumes. However, we would also prefer streets that were not choked with traffic, and this scheme alone has no ability to deliver that outcome.

We have declared a climate emergency as an authority, and have committed to providing leadership to achieve zero carbon emissions as a district by 2030. This is one of our highest priorities as an administration, and will necessitate a significant reduction in vehicle mileage, in order to reduce carbon emissions from transport. So, this clean air zone is just the start of our aspirations in relation to addressing both air pollution and the climate emergency. We will be following it up, 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.’


Councillor Sarah Warren moved the recommendations.


Councillor Richard Samuel seconded the motion by reading out the following statement:


‘They say that a week is a long time in politics. Well 2 years is even longer. That is how long it has taken to get to this point after the motion I put to council proposing the setting up of a zone to tackle the shocking vehicle caused air pollution in the city of Bath.


Two years ago, this vital issue was not even on the council’s radar but today it most certainly is. I must thank the officers who have worked so hard on this project within the limitations imposed by the government and the courts and my colleague Councillor Warren for getting to grips with what is not only a political hot potato but also one that that has levels of technical complexity.


Is it a perfect solution? No


Why do I say that?


Well for a start it only sought to tackle the problems caused by vehicle pollution in the narrowest way in that it only seeks to control levels of NOx. No action is possible to reduce PM2.5 and PM10 particulates emitted by vehicles, nor are the emissions of tyre and brakes dust regulated. Neither does the scheme tackle CO2 emissions or do anything to limit congestion. All these were ignored by the Conservative Environment Secretary when he approved this scheme.


So, what will happen?


I am hopeful that with all these limitations B&NES council will reach compliance with the NOx targets at the end of 2021. However, this aspiration has be heavily caveated because all the predictions are solely based on best case modelling because the business case approved by the last administration shows bare compliance. The independent review we have carried out – at a cost of £9000 by the way and not the £100k claimed by the Labour and Conservative groups – clearly shows that other measures may be needed to ensure we pass the finish line. Few additional measures were set out in the original business plan approved in March. Indeed, on many occasions the former Cabinet Member for Transport specifically disregarded my calls for additional traffic measures.


Thankfully the LD manifesto published in April set out a comprehensive set of traffic management measures which will ensure the council reaches its mandated air quality objectives.


The Queen Square conundrum.


I want to illustrate the problem by referring to what I describe as the Queen Sq problem.


When the last administration published its plans for Queen Sq in March I raised many objections to this scheme. The plans proposed 2 sets of traffic lights at the southern and eastern ends of the square whose explicit purpose is hold up traffic and encourage its diversion towards the west and thence through Lansdown ward. This is so that pollution levels at the corner of Gay St and George St can be brought down under legal limits. All this contortion was so that the last administration could avoid charging cars.


My colleagues and I have tried our best to avoid implementing this scheme in this way but sadly we have failed and it will have to go ahead. The reason for this is that every traffic model we have seen increases traffic elsewhere to unacceptable levels.


In other words no matter how you cut it the only answer in Bath is to reduce vehicle volumes overall and that is a massive challenge.


So, Queen Sq designed and built by John Wood the Elder will remain a glorious roundabout ruined by traffic until we can find a more sustainable solution.


That is the conundrum and the challenge. Do we as a community accept that the dominance of fossil fuel vehicles must continue with ever higher levels of congestion and emissions of toxins and climate changing gases or do we say enough is enough and try to do something about it.


Finally, I want to say halleluiah for the adoption of anti-idling enforcement powers 17 years late maybe but finally there. As a starting point I want to see these used at Bog Island where coaches continue to stand empty with their engines on summer and winter. Businesses in the area will at last welcome this change 2 years after I first proposed it at the then CTE.’


The Chair thanked Councillors Warren and Samuel for their statements and for their contribution towards Clean Air Zone matter.  The Chair also thanked officers for their hard work and outlined that this administration would not charge private vehicles for entering the Clean Air Zone.


Councillor Tim Ball reiterated that the Council would not charge private vehicles for entering the Clean Air Zone.  Councillor Ball also said that this was about helping people with health problems caused by pollution, and was about the future of our children, and our children’s children.


Councillor Rob Appleyard commented that the reasons for the Clean Air Zone were to allow people to breathe better air in Bath and for the future of our children.


RESOLVED (unanimously) that the Cabinet agreed to:



2.1  Note the progress on the delivery of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) Project with a view to ensuring compliance in the shortest possible time, including;

a)  The revised project programme (Appendix 1).

b)  The outcome of the independent peer review and any recommended actions.


2.2  Approve the incorporation of the CAZ scheme into the Council’s capital programme, with a total current cost budget of £17.996m, of which £5.944m is to be fully approved and £12.052m provisionally approved, subject to future grant awards.


2.3  Note the current estimates of revenue costs and funding as set out in parpagraph 5.6 totalling £31.365m, of which £0.231m of grant funding has been awarded. The remainder is subject to future grant awards and Full Business Case approval.


2.4  Grant authorisation for officers to use the following powers:

a)  The use of anti-idling enforcement powers under The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002;

b)  The use of environmental weight limit enforcement powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.


2.5  Following an appropriate tender process, delegate to the Corporate Director and Director of Finance (s.151 Officer) in consultation with the Cabinet member for Resources and Deputy Leader, the decision to appoint a financial partner to administer the proposed financial assistance schemes on behalf of the Council. 


2.6  Agree that the consultation on the CAZ Charging Order and scheme overview can commence on 23 September 2019. 


2.7  Note the updated Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) as published at (

Supporting documents: