Bristol clean air zone will shift pollution and traffic into North Somerset, villagers warn

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Bristol’s clean air zone threatens to shift air pollution problems onto communities in North Somerset, villagers have warned. 

Long Ashton’s parish council is the latest to voice concerns about charging the worst polluting vehicles to use a section of the A4 Portway and the Cumberland Basin bridge.

It said the A369 would bottleneck if it became the de facto route to the South Bristol Link Road, and the “inevitable outcome” would be rat runs in Failand, Barrow Gurney and Long Ashton. 

Parish council chair Cathy Fagg has appealed to environment minister Rebecca Pow for help, saying: “We are grateful for any action you’re able to take that ensures our community’s objections are fully considered before a final decision is taken on the proposed scheme. 

“If your department could also provide us with updates that we may share with the wider community – who are becoming increasingly alarmed by these proposals – that would be very much appreciated.” 

Neighbouring councils in North Somerset have also made representations.
North Somerset Council leader Don Davies said it was “frustrating” Bristol City Council had not formally consulted neighbouring authorities before it submitted its plan for Government approval. 

The clean air zone is set to come into force in October, with £9 daily charges for non-compliant cars, taxis and vans, and a £100-per-day fee for lorries, buses and coaches. 

Cllr Davies said: “Even though North Somerset is the obvious place for traffic to be diverted we have no formal say. 
“Those vehicles that don’t produce much pollution can get through without a charge. The most polluting ones will have to pay, or they’ll divert around. 
“They’re saying us getting some pollution is OK for Bristol’s sake.”

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Bristol City Council’s modelling predicts “very little” traffic will divert into North Somerset.

Cllr Davies added: “We’ve never argued that the clean air zone should be scrapped. We’re just asking that the A370 and Portway are taken out of the scheme. 
“It’s very frustrating. We don’t seem to have any clout in this, because our problem will be less than theirs.”

He said areas of Bristol will see their pollution levels increase, such as Clifton if drivers dodge the charge by going over the suspension bridge to reach the city centre. 

Business West, the region’s chambers of commerce, has also made representations. Director James Durie said it supports the need to improve Bristol’s air quality but was concerned the measures will penalise traffic driving around the city and not just into the centre. 

He said: “The impact will be that you displace traffic onto much less suitable roads where you’re going to create congestion and displace the air quality issues. 
“It will impact people moving in and out of south Bristol, in and out of Ashton Gate, Bristol Airport. The main motorway link to the north is on the Portway. It’s going to catch all that. Effectively, a whole load of traffic is going to get caught up that isn’t trying to touch the city centre.

“When they’re trying to make south Bristol an attractive place to live and work, this puts a barrier in place if you’re trying to access areas of employment like the port or the North Fringe.” 

A Bristol City Council spokesperson confirmed the authority has worked with government to develop a clean air zone which complies with the directive. 

They added: “This includes submitting detailed traffic and air quality modelling and a boundary report as part of our full business case to Government, which includes considerations relating to the A370 and Portway that are main routes into the city. Removing these roads from the zone would mean we would not meet the Government’s legal requirements.

“Our modelling also demonstrates that very little traffic is expected to divert into North Somerset and this has been made clear to North Somerset Council. The zone is expected to improve air quality in areas outside the boundary as more people switch to cleaner vehicles across the Bristol region.

“Seventy one per cent of vehicles travelling into the zone are already clean enough and won’t be charged and we expect this number to increase as individuals and businesses take advantage of the extensive financial support we’ll be providing to help them switch to a cleaner vehicle.’’

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