Just two months after taking office, the Labour administration appears to have done its first U-turn - on the Low Emission Zone (LEZ).
Dr Mark Wright, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hotwells & Harbourside, has spoken of his dismay about Labour's U-turn. His full statement is below:
"It seems very strange that Bristol Labour jumped onto the LEZ bandwagon right before elections, criticised everyone else for being too slow and not getting on with it, then just two months after taking power jump right off the bandwagon again.
"I was very pleased when Bristol Labour joined my campaign in calling for an LEZ for central Bristol, just before the General Election in 2015. At the February Budget meeting, Lib Dems supported a Green Party amendment to put £50k towards getting the ball rolling on an LEZ, but the Labour Party voted it down on the grounds that it "didn't need any money" and the Council should "just get on with doing an LEZ". Then in March, the Green Party backed a Lib Dem motion with an LEZ implementation date of 2020, but again Labour gutted that on the grounds that "it wasn't quick enough", with Cllr Mark Bradshaw saying "Labour run Councils in Nottingham and Oxford have already introduced Low Emission Zones to help improve air quality and Bristol can do the same" - a quote I very much agreed with!
"Now Bristol is also Labour run, and Cllr Bradshaw is in charge of transport again, I submitted a formal question to the new Labour Mayor, asking him what his timetable for the LEZ was. The Mayor's reply came last week and was very disappointing indeed. In it, he said "there is no basis in law for Bristol to enforce a Low Emission Zone", and that we would have to wait for new Clean Air Zone (CAZ) legislation in Parliament... Then, "Once the national primary legislation is in place, the council will be able to move towards making a decision on the nature of a CAZ or similar." I really think perhaps the Mayor and Cllr Bradshaw should take a visit to Nottingham and Oxford, who they pointed out to us in March have already done this under existing legislation!"
The formal question submitted by Cllr Wright is below:
I welcome Mayor Rees's Manifesto commitment to a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Bristol city centre (p19), which I have been requesting for 3.5 years now. The Mayor is likely aware of the following:
a) Bristol is one of 40 cities in the country which is breaching safe levels for PM2.5, according to the WHO.
b) The new mayor of London has unveiled plans to substantially increase the size of London's LEZ, and to bring forward to 2019 the implementation of the Ultra-LEZ.
Given these, can he now outline to Council his timetable for LEZ implementation in Bristol; with an implementation date ahead of the 2020 date that Labour councillors voted down in March on the grounds that it was "too slow".
The full reply from the Labour mayor reads:
Bristol is already doing a number of things to reduce air pollution including providing better travel choices, such as MetroBus, MetroWest, and walking and cycling routes. We are also supporting the switch to electric vehicles through our electric Freight Consolidation Centre and Go Ultra Low West (GUL) project which runs from 2016 – 2021.
Under current primary legislation, there is no basis in law for Bristol to enforce a Low Emission Zone (LEZ). Alternatives to Low Emission Zones under current legislation, such as Traffic Regulation Conditions, are limited in scope and poor in terms of effectiveness. Clean Air Zones (CAZ) were announced in Defra’s Air Quality Action Plan and depending on primary legislation offer the best chance for a legal basis on which to implement and operate a low emission zone. The details of how CAZs will be implemented are still being developed and Defra is expected to provide further guidance on the detail later in 2016.
Once the national primary legislation is in place, the council will be able to move towards making a decision on the nature of a CAZ or similar.