Bristol’s home of in-depth journalism
Powered by 2,000+ members
The Bristol Cable
If the long-awaited plans are adopted, all privately owned diesel vehicles will be banned from the city centre between 7am and 3pm from March 2021.

Bristol’s controversial clean air plans are one step closer to becoming a reality after they were approved by the city’s ruling Labour administration yesterday (November 5).

If the plans are adopted unchanged, all privately owned diesel vehicles will be banned from the city centre between 7am and 3pm from March 2021.

And commercial vehicles, such as buses and taxis, that do not meet emission standards would have to pay a charge of either £9 or £100 a day to enter a clean air zone (CAZ).

The council has not decided yet on a penalty for breaching the diesel car ban but assumed a fine of £60 in its technical modelling work, cabinet heard.

The clean air plans have drawn broad support because of the urgent need to tackle air pollution, which is estimated to kill 300 Bristolians a year.

But many of the details have been criticised for the impact they would have on low-income families, hospital visitors, businesses in the centre and people living in areas outside the CAZ.

The diesel ban area (pink, centre) and charging zone (bounded by pink dotted line) proposed by Bristol City Council under its Clean Air Zone plan. Source: Bristol City Council

Bristol City Council is under a legal obligation to reduce air pollution in the city by lowering toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels to within legal limits as quickly as possible.

It was among 24 local authorities ordered to improve air quality by the government in 2017.

Its outline plans were proposed following detailed technical modelling and public consultation on a diesel car ban and charging CAZ zone as separate options. The plans are expected to bring down levels of NO2 to legal levels by 2025. 

Officers have said that the so-called ‘hybrid’ option approved is the only “reasonable” way to meet the legal requirement, as the only other possible alternative would have involved charging private drivers to enter the CAZ zone as well.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said the hybrid plans were the “quickest route” to legal NO2 levels and “take care of people on the lowest incomes”.

Cabinet heard the concerns of members of the council’s overview and scrutiny board, which included how the proposals would affect both access to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital and air pollution in residential areas surrounding the CAZ.

Scrutiny board chair Geoff Gollop also noted that members were given insufficient time to consider the plans, as they had “effectively 36 hours to digest more than 1,000 pages”. 

The Mayor said the council had already begun thinking about how to manage the “negative consequences” of the clean air proposals.

To public applause, he said the government should stump up “real money” and “legislative space” to support its legal directive for the city to reduce its NO2 levels.

Cabinet member for housing Paul Smith said he was “astounded” by some of the concerns raised by scrutiny given the need to tackle air quality, especially given the predicted growth in the number of city centre residents in the next few years.

Green mayoral candidate Sandy Hore-Ruthven said he thought it was unrealistic to assume that people would upgrade their vehicles by March 2021 and that the government would make the necessary law change for a diesel car ban.

A spokeswoman for the SS Great Britain Trust said trustees were concerned that the private diesel car ban would threaten the survival of the tourist attraction.

Campaigner Oliver Fortune sought assurance that bus ticket prices would not rise in response to the plan and was told that First Bus’s fleet should be clean enough to escape CAZ charges by the time the scheme is in place.

Christina Biggs from the Bristol Clean Air Alliance said the group “broadly” supported the blanket diesel car plan because it affected poor and wealthy alike.

But Green councillor Jude English wondered whether, in reality, people who could afford the diesel ban fine would just enter the area anyway. She noted the government would not necessarily accept the council’s outline clean air plans.

The plans are due to be submitted to the government today (November 6). They were meant to be submitted at the end of last year, and the council has missed three deadlines since then.

The council will now develop the plans further, and consult on exemptions, mitigations and requirements, before submitting the final plans to the government in February 2020. The changes should be in place by the end of March 2021.

Support the journalism Bristol needs.

Thanks to the 2,000+ members who support the Cable, our in-depth journalism is free for everyone. Together, we empower readers with independent and investigative local reporting. Join us and be a part of Bristol’s reader-owned media cooperative.

Join the Cable


    Report a comment
    Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy

  • Harvey Logan says:

    Paul Smith says he is ‘astounded’ by the scrutiny offered up considering the growing population. I am ‘astounded’ with the green light the Council have given to the growing population, surely this is the exact reason why we have such high pollution, with so much development of apartments and huge business areas being allowed in the inner city area without the infrastructure to accommodate it? duh !

  • Stephen Thomas says:

    How will you deal with hospital out patients going for daily treatment? Many have immune deficiencies and it is not good for them to travel by bus.
    There has to be some sort of leniency for private diesel cars. Not an outright ban.

  • Stephen Reed says:

    Surely this will discriminate against blue badge holders with a diesel car as it’s not as easy for them to use public transport

  • keith foster says:

    This ban on all diesel cars is draconian. It should be done in phases up to a total ban by 2030 for example, allowing people to cost effectively transition to alternative fuel. Banning euro 6 engines is totally over the top, every other car is a diesel!

  • D. Winch says:

    My euro 6 diesel van makes less soot particulates/NOx than any petrol vehicle. In fact the modern day euro 6 diesel pushes out less particulate matter than the air contains going into the engine!!! You simply have not listened to or understood the science at all. Disgraceful!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

City Reports

Council approves major new development plans in Lawrence Hill


£17 million could be wiped off value of Bristol Energy

Fight For Fair Air Banner Home Page

Watch: Lessons from lockdown – how can Bristol battle air pollution?


£37.7 million later: Council announces sale of debt-ridden Bristol Energy

Scrutinising Institutions Reports Coronavirus In Bristol

Council will have to make spending cuts, as cost of Covid-19 passes £100 million


‘More work to do’ on institutional racism at Bristol City Council

In Bristol

The essential round-up

Sent to your inbox every Friday