Wiltshire Publications

“Bath has the mother of fights on its hands!” Westbury declares war on city’s ‘clean air zone’ plans

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 at 11:29 am.

A PROPOSAL to introduce charges for a ‘clean air zone’ in Bath has been blasted as ‘unacceptable’ by the local MP and councillors, who fear that traffic and pollution in Westbury could increase significantly as a result.

Concern has also been raised for the impact on patients of Bath’s Royal United Hospital from Westbury, who could face being charged a fee to drive through the city to access crucial services. 

Westbury Mayor, cllr Ian Cunningham, said the Bath plans were an attempt to push the city’s pollution problems onto Westbury, while local MP, Dr Andrew Murrison,  said Bath was “going to have the mother of fights on its hands” if it went ahead with its plans.

Bath & North East Somerset Council (BNES) has proposed the introduction of a daily charge from the end of 2020 for driving through the centre of Bath, to help meet their target from the Government to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air by 2021. 

Charges would apply to vehicles that do not meet the Government’s minimum emission standards – £9 a day for cars, taxis and LGVs/vans and £100 a day for buses, coaches and HGVs.

If implemented, the ‘charging clear air zone’ could encourage north/south traffic that do not meet minimum emission standards to use the A350 instead to avoid Bath, increasing traffic through Westbury. 

Local MP, Dr Andrew Murrison said, “It’s completely unacceptable. If Bath thinks it can simply shunt its A36 through traffic up the A350 past my constituents living right on the road in Westbury, it’s going to have the mother of fights on its hands.

“I appreciate Bath’s desire to have a ‘clean air zone’, but Westbury has been an air quality management area for years. If Bath is serious about north-south traffic, it should be lobbying for a Westbury bypass and a Westbury ‘clean air zone’ alongside its otherwise wholly unacceptable plans.”

Mayor of Westbury, cllr Ian Cunningham added “I am concerned about this. I support in principle the idea of improving air quality, but the proposal by BNES does not do this –  it is moving the problem somewhere else. They are moving traffic from their polluted area to ours.

“They have the resources to create their own ‘clean air zone’, Westbury does not have the resources to do this – we have no power to create a ‘Westbury clean air zone’. We need to defend our corner. BNES has no obligation to discuss these plans with other local authorities, but it would have been nice if they had made the gesture to.

“I have asked the town council to discuss this as a matter of urgency and it will be on the agenda at the next council meeting on Monday 5th November so we can respond to the consultation. We will also hold a public meeting – the more people that respond to the consultation the better.”

However, there could be some good news for Westbury following Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget announcement last week.

MP Andrew Murrison said, “I’m very pleased with the £25million announced for improving air quality. I now want to know how the new air quality money will help remediate Westbury’s air quality management area. I’m going to discuss how we can access the cash with the Environment Secretary and Wiltshire Council.”

Bath RUH patients

Patients of Bath’s Royal United Hospital using the A4 London Road or A36 to access the city, face a charge of £9 if their vehicle does not meet the minimum emission standards.

Deputy chief executive of the RUH, Libby Walters said, “The Trust is aware of the council’s plans for a clean air zone. We will follow the consultation process closely to fully understand the potential effect the proposals would have on the ability of our patients and our staff to travel to our hospitals. We will discuss these issues with the council over the coming months.”

The BNES consultation on a ‘charging clean air zone’ for Bath ends on Monday 26th November. For more information visit: www.bathnes.gov.uk/bath-breathes-2021-overview

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