Bath & North East Somertset Council

How we reached this decision

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How we reached this decision

In 2017, the government told the council, along with 27 other local authorities, to reduce NO2 pollution to within the EU and national legal limit of 40 ug/m3 in the shortest possible time, and by 2021 at the latest.

See letter of legal direction from Defra.

If the council fails to comply with this directive, it will face potential fines or legal action.

Early work

Technical work in 2017/18 showed that a charging clean air zone (CAZ) is the only measure capable of reducing NO2 to within legal limits in the time frame.

A charging CAZ is a geographical area where a fee is levied to deter drivers of higher emission vehicles to enter areas of high pollution.

In the Spring of 2018, we shortlisted and sought public feedback on three different types of charging CAZ, following the guidelines contained in the government’s clean air zone framework.

The options considered for further testing and feedback were:

  • A class B CAZ with charges for all higher emission vehicles except for LGVs/vans and cars
  • A class C CAZ with charges for all higher emission vehicles, except cars
  • A class D CAZ with charges for all higher emission vehicles, including cars

See Strategic Outline Business Case for full details.

See Ministerial letter May 2018.

Further on-going technical work told us that a class B CAZ would not achieve compliance, and that a class C CAZ (exempting cars) would have left two NO2 hotspots exceeding legal thresholds at Gay Street (north of Queen Square) and Walcot Parade.

Based on the available evidence, a class D CAZ charging all higher emission vehicles (including cars) was therefore seen to be the best course of action to urgently reduce risks to health and to meet the Government’s legal mandate.

Public consultation

In October/November 2018, we held a six-week consultation on a clean air plan that included a class D charging CAZ. 

See summary of proposal (.pdf 565kb).

The consultation asked for feedback on the proposed plan, including the scheme as a whole, the zone’s boundary, charges, concessions and the non-charging support package.

More than 8,400 people took part, including residents, businesses and interest groups - the largest response the council has seen to a consultation of this type.


Overall, respondents were very aware of the need to improve air quality in Bath. However, many of you also expressed concerns about the details of the scheme, including the boundary, the potential for ‘rat running’, and the disproportionate impact that charging higher emission cars might have on small businesses and lower income households.

Many of you asked us to look again at whether it was possible to exempt cars while meeting the strict air quality targets set for us by the Government.

The cabinet agreed in December to delay their decision on the proposed plan to allow for a proper consideration of people’s views, and to consider on-going technical work.

This was a considerable task, resulting in officers recommending a class C charging CAZ that exempts cars.

To comply in the timeframe, the scheme would require traffic management at Queen Square to control the flow of traffic into Gay Street.

Feedback also shaped small amends to the original zone boundary, and to the funding bid to government for a range of support measures including more detail about financial assistance to upgrade certain vehicles.

Read the consultation report

Read the cabinet report

Read the full outline business case (March 2019)

Read the Ministerial letter re: the delay in the decision

Our work is developed in accordance with government guidelines and under the guidance of the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU). It has been carefully assessed for health, economic, financial and equality impacts. JAQU is also ensuring that all of the work done is verified by independent experts.

The decision

On 5 March 2019, the council adopted the recommendation for Bath’s clean air plan featuring a class C charging CAZ with traffic management at Queen Square. It includes a package of measures to lessen the impact of the zone on the community, and to support a shift to cleaner transport.

See Overview of scheme

Next steps

We are currently preparing a draft charging order that will form the legal basis for enforcing the zone and includes full details on how it will operate. There will be another chance for residents and businesses to comment on all aspects of the plan before we prepare and publish the final business case in the Autumn. 

The aim is to have a clean air zone in place by the end of 2020.

More information

For more background and technical information, please refer to the Outline Business Case reports.

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