A leading property expert has backed the introduction of a clean air zone in Bristol – but says businesses and residents in the city require far more detail before they can begin planning for the change.
Under plans due to be introduced in Bristol by March 2021, privately-owned diesel cars will be banned between 7am and 3pm in a “central ban zone” which includes part of the M32, the old city, Redcliffe, Spike Island, Harbourside and part of Hotwells.
All vehicles, aside from taxis and emergency vehicles, will incur fines if they enter this area and a wider Clean Air Zone will be established, further away from the city centre.
Under the scheme diesel powered lorries, vans, buses and taxis which pay to enter the wider clean air zone will also be allowed into the central zone. Taxis and vans will pay a daily charge of £9 and buses and HGVs £100.
The diesel ban is being proposed by Bristol City Council, which is under a legal obligation to reduce air pollution by lowering toxic NO2 levels to within legal limits as quickly as possible.
Jo Edwards, who heads up the investment property management team at global real estate advisor Colliers International in the South West and Wales, says implementing a diesel ban in Bristol is “absolutely the right thing to do” – but that the current proposals need clarification.
“Overall this is a forward-thinking move,” says Jo Edwards, who takes over as office head at Colliers International in Bristol in the New Year.
“However these proposals may actually result in the problem of bad air quality being pushed out of the city centre and displaced elsewhere.
“We could end up with a situation whereby peak-time congestion merely moves to a different time of the day, with some people driving into work earlier to avoid the ban, for example, and HGVs making deliveries outside the 7am-3pm time frame.
“There are other unforeseen consequences – the ban could lead to an exodus of industrial occupiers in established central areas such as St. Philip’s and make life more difficult for office commuters and hotel and food operators, while people travelling to Bristol Airport from the north of the city would have to travel via the M5 rather than the Portway.
“In terms of retail, people could be dissuaded from visiting Cabot Circus, which falls within the central ban zone, in favour of Cribbs Causeway instead, and in addition to all of this, there is the potential impact on people who live within the zone, and how this will impact their ability to move around the city.”
Jo Edwards says the diesel ban will have beneficial effects, such as encouraging more people to cycle and to drive environmentally-friendly electric cars, but says it needs to be followed by more radical action to improve “green” transport infrastructure in the city.
“There are currently very few on-street charging points for electric cars and there needs to be a massive increase in their provision.
“Likewise, park and ride provision needs to be expanded if the zone is to be a success – currently we only have sites operating at Avonmouth, Long Ashton and Brislington, and there needs to be some kind of provision at the top of the M32 in particular.
“Longer term, the solution could be a rapid transit tram system. The Bristol ‘supertram’ project was cancelled in 2004 and it may be time to review this, rather than opting for a more costly proposal such as a new underground system.
“Several other major UK cities operate a successful tram network and this could be the best long-term solution to Bristol’s problems around air quality and congestion, alongside the possible introduction of congestion charging.
“We support the diesel ban in principle, but clearly there are aspects of the current proposals which need to be thought through in more detail, and the short timescale involved may simply result in people changing their habits and ‘working around’ the ban rather than adopting more sustainable modes of transport.”
Elsewhere in the UK, Greater Manchester and Leeds are also looking at plans to introduce clean air zones and in central London, an ultra-low emission zone was introduced in April this year.
“Here, there could be difficulties for drivers where different rules apply to different cities, leading to confusion for visitors,” says Jo Edwards.
Several European cities including Madrid, Paris and Hamburg have already banned older diesel vehicles in their city centres, with several more set to do so over the next decade. More than 20 cities across Europe, accounting for a population of over 60 million, are due to ban diesel vehicles over the next decade.