Letter to the Chronicle by Jane Samson, candidate for Lambridge.
The council is currently consulting with the public about their proposal to implement a Class D Clean Air Zone in Bath in response to the government directive to reduce NO2 emissions to a specified level by 2021. This will mean that all higher emission vehicles will be charged when driving into the city centre from late 2020. For cars (diesel pre 2015 and petrol pre 2006 including hybrids) the charge will be £9 if paid within 24 hours, up to £120 if you can’t afford to pay on time.
Cleaner air is essential, especially for those vulnerable to asthma and bronchial conditions. However, implementation of the Class D option, without prior planning and mitigation measures to improve public transport and safer walking and cycling, will create huge problems for many. For those on a low income there may be no option to upgrade. Their non-compliant cars will become worthless and the cost of second-hand compliant cars will soar. Parking and rat run issues, already a major headache, will get worse outside the zone.
Care workers would need to pay £180 per month (based on a five-day week) to stay in employment and continue to look after the elderly and the infirm who depend on them. Sirona care workers already face an £80 per month pay cut. Blue Badge holders exempt from car tax will not have to pay, but the elderly who need regular hospital appointments or parents of children with special educational needs, will have to. Bath’s privately owned bus services are unreliable and expensive. It costs more to send three children to school on a bus than to pay a daily £9 fine – what if you can’t afford either? The new bus routes that will be urgently needed will not be provided by a privately run, profit-motivated bus company; and there is presently no government promise of funds to subside extra services.
A better scheme would be something in between a Class D model and the Class C option that would not charge all journeys by non-compliant cars and vans. Surely this would be a much fairer option if it cut most emissions from HGVs, coaches and buses and could be extended if necessary when funding for mitigating measures became available?
Our Conservative council needs to put the brakes on the Class D proposal, go further to model different options and then trial them – before imposing a lot of misery on those who are already struggling. It may also salvage what’s left of its reputation for not caring about the people who live in Bath.
Labour Candidate for BANES Lambridge Ward