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Council set be UK’s first to ban diesel vehicles from city centre

(Lewis Whyld/PA)
(Lewis Whyld/PA)

Bristol is set to become the first city in the UK to ban diesel vehicles after the mayor confirmed the council’s “moral, ecological and legal duty” to clean up the city’s air.

Marvin Rees approved a ban on diesel vehicles from entering the city centre at a council cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening.

Plans will see all privately owned diesel vehicles barred from entering the proposed clean air zone every day between 7am and 3pm by March 2021.

The proposal, outlined in a thousand-page report, will go to officials at the Department for Transport and Defra before a full consultation of local residents and businesses later next year.

Mr Rees, elected as the city’s Labour mayor in 2016, told the council: “We have a moral, we have an ecological and we have a legal duty to clean up the air we breathe.”

The council has considered imposing a £60 penalty for motorists who break the ban but said the size of the fine is yet to be finalised.

A car scrappage scheme has also been proposed in a bid to encourage road users to switch to less damaging alternatives.

The mayor said the council was planning a wider consultation to help reduce disruption, which will also see restrictions on diesel-powered commercial vehicles like buses, taxis and heavy goods vehicles.

He said: “A city is like a big Rubik’s Cube – you move one thing, other things come out of kilter. That’s why we take the time to think about it and begin to take action.”

Concerns were raised by Conservative councillor Geoff Gollop, who said access to Bristol Royal Infirmary and other hospitals inside the zone could be affected.

Labour cabinet member for housing Paul Smith expressed dismay at the hospital’s decision to try to open a new 800-space car park.

“I think its absolutely shocking that we have got a hospital trust which is proposing to do something which it knows will damage the health of the people who live in the area,” he said.

The councillor also referred to a recent Bristol-wide study which found that “at least 300 people a year are dying because of air pollution”.

Conservative councillor Claire Hiscott also expressed concerns about the hospital.

She said: “For people on low incomes, they will not be able to transition to different vehicles and currently if you need to get to the hospital and you have a diesel vehicle you will face a hefty fine if you cross that zone in an emergency.”

The council’s head of paid services Mike Jackson said: “We haven’t decided what the amount of that penalty charge should be but in order to do the modelling we have used a fairly standard assumption of a £60 charge.”

Concluding the discussions, the mayor said: “I approve the recommendations as set out in the report.”

The Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit, made up of officials from the Department for Transport and Defra, is expected to begin reviewing the approved plans on Wednesday.