Bristol councillor calls for city centre Low Emission Zone

A Bristol city council member has called for a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to be introduced in the central area of the city to tackle high pollution levels from traffic.

At a meeting of the council’s sustainable development and transport scrutiny commission on Thursday evening (March 14), Lib Dem councillor Mr Wright submitted a statement calling for more urgent action on air quality in the city.

Bristol city centre at night - a member of the council has called for an LEZ to be introduced in the city

Bristol city centre at night – a member of the council has called for an LEZ to be introduced in the city

He said that cyclists and residents in his Cabot ward in central Bristol were bearing the brunt of pollution, as roads such as Nelson Street, St James Barton, and Old Market Roundabout had the poorest air quality in the city.

Residents in Cabot have the highest ratios of walking to work and the lowest ratios of driving, but suffer the worst air pollution in the city, according to Mr Wright.

Mr Wright’s statement came in response to a report submitted by the council’s Air Quality Working Group at the meeting, which recommended that the Mayor of Bristol publish a draft air quality strategy for consultation.

The report estimates that around 23,000 people in Bristol are exposed to pollution levels exceeding government targets, and describes traffic as ‘the dominant source of this problem’ – 53% of Bristol’s nitrogen oxide pollution is from buses and HGVs, 36% from cars and 12% from vans, according to council figures.

As a result, the report contains proposals for improved planning strategies; an integrated walking and cycling network; minimum emissions standards for buses and taxis; and a public information campaign on air pollution.

However, Mr Wright felt that not enough prominence was given to proposals for a LEZ in Bristol, which were listed in the report as only a supplementary recommendation for ‘exploration’.

‘no urgency’

He said: “I am disappointed that proposals for a LEZ in Bristol are relegated to the supplementary recommendations, rather than being fleshed out more in a key recommendation. This contains no sense of urgency or certainty, and I fear that it will not be taken forward with any vigour, and will therefore fall by the wayside.”

Mr Wright suggested that a Bristol LEZ could work in a similar way to the zone in central London, introduced in February 2008, except that the fees “would probably be a bit cheaper” and “would generally only affect older buses and lorries”.

Mr Wright admitted that LEZs were not a “simple solution” due to administration and business costs, but added: “There is much scope for work and investigation into an LEZ in Bristol, and for the sake of Cabot residents and the rest of the city I hope the SDTS Commission will see the importance of this cause and impress it on the administration.”

Bristol city council currently has one Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) covering the main central areas of the city and published its Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) in 2004. More information on air quality in Bristol is available on the city council website.

Last month, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced plans for an ultra-low emission zone in the capital to be introduced by 2020, which would see only zero or low emission vehicles driving in central London during working hours (see airqualitynews.com story).