AUTOMOTIVE industry body the SMMT has said Bristol’s move to ban diesel cars in a central zone during the daytime will only cause confusion.
Last night, Bristol mayor Cllr Marvin Rees confirmed the council’s ‘moral, ecological and legal duty’ to clean up the city’s air when he approved a ban on diesel vehicles from entering the city centre.
The 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. Commercial vehicles will have to pay to enter it.
The proposal, outlined in a 1,000-page report, will now go to officials at the Department for Transport and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) before a full consultation of residents and businesses later next year.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said though: ‘Industry wants to see all cities, including Bristol, meet their targets and continues to invest in ever more advanced technology to help improve our environment.
‘However, this proposed blanket ban, which goes against government guidelines, fails to distinguish between modern vehicles and decades-old technologies and will only cause confusion for drivers while also undermining efforts to boost air quality.
‘Instead, we need a clear and consistent national approach to clean air zones that incentivises uptake of the latest, low-emission vehicles, including new Euro 6 diesels, which are the cleanest ever produced, alongside improvements to traffic flow and investment in charging infrastructure.’
Cllr Rees told a cabinet meeting last night: ‘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 such as buses, taxis and heavy goods vehicles.
A recent Bristol-wide study found ‘at least 300 people a year are dying because of air pollution’, the council was told.
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 today.