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A feasibility study into creating a Clean Air Zone for the Bristol area will begin soon following a successful government funding bid.

Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils submitted a joint funding bid worth £500k to help them decide what measures could be implemented to improve air quality. It is part of wider plans to improve air quality in and around Bristol, creating a healthier and cleaner city.

Clean Air Zones are a mechanism proposed by the government to help cities tackle air pollution by introducing targeted actions to a specific geographical area to reduce harmful levels. The zones will encourage the replacement of old, polluting vehicles with modern, cleaner technologies, such as ultra-low emission vehicles. Clean Air Zones are one of the measures recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and considered to be cost effective in improving health.

The study will determine the extent to which air pollution needs to be reduced to meet acceptable standards, the geographical extent of the area, size and location, timescales for developing it, whether and how charging arrangements could be introduced, and if so, which vehicles should be included.

It will also need to take account of traffic growth, plans to ease traffic congestion and other initiatives which may affect air quality. It will link closely with the Mayor’s planned Congestion Task Group and current Air Quality Working Group, and will also be part of the city’s longer term Air Quality Action Plan. This aims to reduce air pollution below legal limits because for some pollutants like particulates there is no safe limit.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said:

“I have set up a Mayoral Working Group to focus on my commitments on air quality, developing an Air Quality Action Plan and bringing forward proposals for a Clean Air Zone for Bristol. This work will involve experts and communities across the city. We also have strong cross-party support to improve air quality in Bristol – expressed through a unanimous motion at Full Council.

“We have submitted a strong response to the government’s recent consultation on Clean Air Zones challenging it to come forward with national measures to reduce air pollution and funding for local authorities to act locally. We want and expect the government’s continued support in enabling Bristol to have the Clean Air Zone which it clearly needs.

“Air pollution is a serious problem in Bristol and it is unacceptable that lives are at risk because of harmful traffic emissions. This isn’t an attack on motorists though – it’s about our wider need to develop a transport system that works best for everyone. We hope this funding will help us develop effective and affordable ways to improve air quality, whilst taking into account wider transport measures and traffic congestion, and the impacts of future growth. To do this we will consult carefully with residents, transport providers and businesses on the best approach.”

Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Cabinet Member for Transport at Bristol City Council, co-chairs a new Mayoral working group which has been set up to tackle air quality. He said:

“I am delighted that this funding will enable us to really understand the ways in which we can improve air quality in the city. Clean Air Zones are an important new measure and we will be able to carefully assess how to best target measures to reduce current high levels of pollution, which will benefit all people and complement ongoing and planned transport investment.”

Bristol City Council led the funding bid for around £500k for a joint design study with South Gloucestershire Council for Clean Air Zones.

This funding bid will link into the ClairCity project (www.claircity.eu), which is a four-year European Union funded research initiative involving thousands of people in six cities around Europe, including Bristol. The University of the West of England is working with the City Council on the project which will be informed by the views of local people on air pollution.

The feasibility and design work on the Clean Air Zone will begin as soon as possible and could be completed in early 2018. The timing of when any Clean Air Zone will be introduced will be determined by the feasibility study and will depend on feedback from a consultation process. It will also take account of progress by the Congestion Task Group and any emerging recommendations from that.

Press release by Bristol City Council.

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