Agenda item

Bath's Clean Air Plan- Full Business Case

Poor air quality is the largest known environmental risk to public health in the UK. Investing in cleaner air and doing more to tackle air pollution are priorities for the EU and UK governments, as well as for Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES). B&NES has monitored and endeavoured to address air quality in Bath, and the wider B&NES area, since 2002. Despite this, Bath has ongoing exceedances of the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and these are predicted to continue until 2025 without intervention.

This report provides a further update on the report in September 2019 and sets out the decisions required to progress the project.


Councillor Vic Pritchard asked for a point of clarification by saying that not so long ago it was said that vehicles which would meet the following minimum emission standards for Bath would be free of charge:


  • Euro 6/VI (or newer) diesel vehicles registered from c. 2015
  • Euro 4/IV (or newer) petrol vehicles registered from c.2006
  • Electric vehicles
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Alternatively fuelled vehicles


However, Councillor Pritchard felt that the report suggested that all car drivers would be exempt from charges.  Councillor Pritchard asked which option was correct.


Councillors Sarah Warren and Richard Samuel explained that minimum emission standards would apply to all vehicles that were not private cars and motorbikes.  Private cars and motorbikes would be exempt from charges.


Councillor Sarah Warren read out the following statement:


Today, we are discussing the Final Business Case to Government for funding for Bath’s Clean Air Plan. Air pollution is one of the environmental challenges of our times. The British Heart Foundation says that living in the most polluted areas of the UK is as deadly as smoking 150 cigarettes a year, so it is absolutely vital that we reduce pollution levels here in Bath. 92% of nitrogen dioxide emissions in this city currently arise from road traffic. This Clean Air Zone proposes to provide support for local businesses to upgrade their vehicles to less polluting models, and will form the springboard for further measures aimed at giving people alternatives to the private car, and encouraging their use.

I want to thank the council officers who have worked so hard on what I believe is one of the most challenging projects they have had to deal with. The modelling of both traffic flows and air pollution is highly technical, and at the cutting edge of current understanding, and this work has been carried out within parameters and a timescale that have been very tightly defined by Government, whilst rightly, under close scrutiny from the media and the public.

I also want to thank the public for their constructive and enthusiastic participation in our two consultation processes. They attended open events, and wrote in with their suggestions, in very large numbers. Their help has been invaluable in ironing out the unintended consequences that might have arisen, had the council gone live with earlier iterations of the proposal, and in ensuring we have the best fit scheme that we can for Bath, within the government’s tight parameters.

The scheme we are proposing is a “Class C” Clean Air Zone, which will see non-compliant, highly polluting HGVs, buses, vans, and taxis charged to enter the zone. You will remember that the council previously consulted on the possibility of charging private cars, and that the majority of the record 8000 respondents expressed concern about the impact on local families of such a measure. But without charging cars, the only way that legal compliance can be achieved is to introduce so-called “traffic management” at Queen Square, so as to reduce the flow of traffic past a key pollution hotspot in Gay Street.

We recognise that this scheme may not be perfect in every regard as it goes live, and that its ability to achieve legal levels of compliance is finely poised. That’s why we’ll be monitoring its performance very closely from the get go, through increased data collection around both air quality and traffic flow. We’ll be doing this both in those areas where we believe air quality will be improved by the scheme, and at spots where our modelling has indicated there may be a slight increase in pollution or traffic. The enhanced monitoring will mean we have a deep and improving understanding of air quality and traffic flow in the city, and on the factors that influence it, which in turn will mean that, should the scheme not be on track to deliver the benefits that the modelling has predicted, we’ll know early, and we’ll know what type of contingency measures need to be taken to achieve legal compliance.

I should add that the council will continue to take other measures alongside the Clean Air Zone which are focused on giving people alternatives to the car and encouraging their use. These additional measures will contribute to reducing pollution and are also in line with our climate emergency declaration and commitment to reduce individual car mileage by 25% and achieve net zero carbon emissions, by 2030.

One part of the scheme that has met with a mixed reception at consultation is the plan for Queen Square. It was a part of the scheme inherited by the current administration from the previous one, and which is required in order to allow the city to achieve legal compliance without charging cars. I acknowledge that the current scheme for Queen Square is not the outcome we would prefer to see at such an important Grade 1 listed space in the heart of our World Heritage City, and I regret that, despite very hard work by both councillors and officers, we have not been able to develop more sympathetic plans for this space in time to hit the externally set deadline for legal compliance. However, I would like to reassure the public that we regard the current proposal for Queen Square as a temporary measure until such time as nitrogen dioxide levels are legally compliant, and overall volumes of traffic on the network have been reduced. And this is where individuals can help us, too, by giving real thought to their transport choices on a daily basis and avoiding using their cars in the city centre wherever possible.

In the summer, we hope to begin consultation with the public on medium term improvements to the public realm in Queen Square, that will inform the future development of a pleasanter space, less focused around the car.

In summary, I anticipate that this scheme will effectively reduce air pollution both at key hotspots around the city, ensuring the council meets its legal obligations in relation to nitrogen dioxide levels; as well as more widely, as drivers upgrade their vehicles to less polluting models, and modify their behaviour. I view it as an important scheme to safeguard the health of our residents, and the first of a suite of measures the council will take, aimed at reducing our dependency on the motor vehicle, and at reducing both carbon emissions and other pollutants.’


Councillor Sarah Warren moved the recommendations.


Councillor Richard Samuel seconded the recommendations by saying that he had put a motion to the Council in July 2017 for the Clean Air Zone, and today the Cabinet would vote on the Final Business Case.  Councillor Samuel expressed his concerns that central government has not yet paid the remaining £18.3m of the Clean Air Zone money to the Council, which could mean that the project would not go ahead unless the funding is received.  The Council has sent a letter to the Secretary of State expressing its concerns with the delay in payment.  Councillor Samuel concluded by saying that the Council would have to re-work the Clean Air Zone scheme if there was a lack of funding from the central government.  The next phase of the scheme would be the installation of number plate recognition cameras, which was probably the most expensive part of the project.


The Chair agreed with Councillor Samuel that the Council was not in an ideal position whilst waiting for the remaining funding. 



RESOLVED (unanimously) that the Cabinet agreed to:


2.1 Delegate authority to the Corporate Director of Place to formally submit to the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) for approval: the final Full Business Case (FBC), Clean Air Fund (CAF) bid; and the Charging Order. The main FBC is attached as Appendix 1 and the full package of 2 documents have been shared with Cabinet members and are published on the Council’s website.

2.2 Agree the key project programme milestones as shown in Section 3.5.

2.3 Agree the revised and final scheme boundary as shown in Appendix 2.

2.4 Note that a draft Communications Strategy has been developed to support the implementation of the scheme that integrates with the national communications campaign. This is set out in Appendix 3.


2.5 Consider the FBC Consultation Report setting out the views of the  respondents to the last public consultation and analysis of these views. This is set out in Appendix 4.

2.6 Confirm the launch of the approved scheme on 4 November 2020. This is the date upon which enforcement will commence and payment must be made for entering the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in a non-compliant vehicle or be subject to enforcement via a penalty charge notice (PCN).

2.7 Note the recommendations of the independent review which have been incorporated into the FBC.

2.8 Note the changes made by JAQU as part of the core scheme since the end of the last public consultation.

2.9 Consider the updated Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA)shown in Appendix 5.


2.10 Note that a meeting of the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel took place on 13th January 2020 and any recommendations will be reported to the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Sustainability.

2.11 Delegate authority to the relevant Corporate Director and the Director of Legal and Democratic Services and the S151 Officer, in consultation with the Cabinet member for Climate Change and the Deputy Leader, the decision to agree and to enter into any relevant legal agreement to secure, the national operational agreement(s) for the operation of the Clean Air Zone.


2.12 Delegate authority to the relevant Corporate Director and the Director of Legal and Democratic Services, in consultation with the Cabinet member for Climate Change and the Deputy Leader, the decision to agree and make minor changes to the Clean Air Zone Charging Order for technical reasons before sealing.

2.13 Note that if the Council does not secure sufficient funds from DEFRA/DfT then the Council reserves the right to review the proposals as set out in this report to ensure that there is no impact on the Council’s wider budget.



Supporting documents: