A Lib Dem motion to introduce a low emission zone to help improve the air quality of Bristol’s most highly polluted streets has been agreed with cross-party support.
Councillors from all parties met to debate the Lib Dem proposal at Full Council at the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club last night. If introduced, the scheme would see a charge levied on vehicles producing high levels of emissions entering the city centre area.
Bristol City Council is required by law to monitor and assess air quality against national and European air quality limit values. Road traffic contributes to poor air quality by emitting two key pollutants (Nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2) and fine dust particles (PM)) amongst others, which are damaging to human health and the environment. But despite having been the European Green Capital of Europe in 2015, the government estimates that air pollution is killing nearly 200 people a year in Bristol.
There are over 200 low emission zones throughout Europe and they have proven to be successful in improving air quality. In Berlin for example there was a 58% reduction of diesel particles and 20% reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide after the scheme’s introduction.
Last year the government announced local authorities in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Derby and Nottingham would be required to impose charges for some polluting diesel vehicles by 2020 at the latest. The cities will join London, which has already announced an ultra-low-emissions zone in the centre of the city.
The motion passed after it was voted through with an amendment, which added a requirement to introduce a pilot Low Emission Zone 'as soon as possible'.
“This is our city, our community, our Bristol, but the air pollution here is an, invisible, silent killer. The quality of the air we breathe is something that affects us in our day-to-day lives and something that will affect the lives of our children and generations to come. If Bristol aspires to be a modern, vibrant city, with a high-quality local environment, cleaner air and cleaner transport, then the air quality simply has to be improved and we have to do something now.
“All the evidence is there that a low emission zone can work and help us achieve this aim. It is a sensible and practical solution, which will benefit the health of our residents and contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment as a whole. If elected I want to work with all people to make the area we live in more sustainable and I will introduce a low emission zone in the city centre to help make this a reality.”
Cllr Mark Wright has campaigned for the introduction of a low emission zone for the last three years. He added:
“Cabot ward suffers the brunt of Bristol's air pollution due to it being the city centre. This is an ongoing scandal that must stop.
“Introducing a low emission zone would be a cost effective way of improving air quality citywide. There has been a lot of talk by the mayor over the feasibility of introducing one. I hope he will now listen and finally take some action in improving our city’s poor air quality before the elections in May”.