Implementation of plans to clean up Bristol’s air pollution is being pushed back in order to aid recovery of an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The measures – to include a city centre diesel vehicle ban and charging clean air zone – were due to take effect from April 2021, but following a directive from the Government, this will be delayed to an as yet unconfirmed date.
Mayor Marvin Rees said he remains hopeful Bristol will still reach compliance by 2023, adding that the process of rebuilding the economy poses an opportunity to focus on sustained, inclusive growth.
“We need to deliver this in the closest possible time, but we need to be aware there will be an impact on business and the economy,” said the mayor during a press briefing on Wednesday.
“Government has said the implementation date can be put back to protect businesses and jobs in light of the unprecedented hit they have taken due to measures we have had to put in place around coronavirus.”
The government has said it will work with local authorities on delaying clean air zone plans.
The move comes as Bristol’s air pollution levels are dropping due to measures imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Rees confirmed there are no plans to change the proposals that have already been submitted to the Government and said the new date to implement them is not yet known.
He also said city leaders will be asking central government for additional support to take on the challenge of tackling air pollution while rebuilding a sustainable economy, for example helping drivers of polluting commercial vehicles switch to greener options.
The mayor also set out a vision of rebuilding a new economy, focusing around the UN’s sustainable development goals, something he said Bristol is now a world leader on.
“Every city system is being tested by coronavirus,” said Rees. “We have an opportunity to see what’s resilient and what’s not resilient. The sustainable development goals provide an opportunity for us to rebuild what will be a very hard hit economy. Let’s not just rebuild what we had before, let’s build something different, more sustainable and inclusive and fair and just.”
Main photo by Martin Booth