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Wiltshire Council shares serious concerns over proposed changes to Bath Clean Air Zone

Wiltshire Council has expressed its opposition and frustration at Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) Council's proposals to extend its Clean Air Zone by introducing a charge for Euro VI diesel HGVs exceeding 12 tonnes.

Published 11 November 2022
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Wiltshire Council has expressed its opposition and frustration at Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) Council's proposals to extend its Clean Air Zone by introducing a charge for Euro VI diesel HGVs exceeding 12 tonnes.

The Leader of Wiltshire Council, Cllr Richard Clewer, has written to his BANES counterpart, Cllr Kevin Guy, to note Wiltshire Council's strong opposition to the plans because of the potential damaging impact on Westbury, Corsham, Bradford on Avon and other West Wiltshire towns and villages.

The proposal was considered yesterday (Thursday 10 November) at BANES' Cabinet meeting.

Also concerning Wiltshire Council is the continuation of the 18 tonnes weight limit on Cleveland Bridge on the A36 in Bath, despite repairs to the bridge now being substantially complete.

Cllr Clewer said: We're extremely disappointed that BANES is looking to change its Bath Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to introduce a charge for Euro VI diesel HGVs exceeding 12 tonnes. These are the cleanest HGVs currently on the market, so this feels less of a clean air initiative and more of a quest to restrict all HGVs in the city.

This proposal, along with the now extended temporary 18-tonne weight restriction on Cleveland Bridge, is pushing this traffic issue on to Wiltshire roads and through towns such as Bradford on Avon, Corsham and Westbury, and this is something that we are not prepared to accept.

We recognise that there are regional issues with traffic congestion, air quality and HGV usage, but these will not be solved by simply pushing the problem from Bath into the towns of West Wiltshire.

The long-term solution needs to be found by working with neighbouring authorities, National Highways, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Defra, not by BANES acting unilaterally and with little regard for the people of Wiltshire.

We are strongly opposed to both the continued weight restriction on Cleveland Bridge and the proposed CAZ changes and will be looking at all options to formally resist them and to protect West Wiltshire's towns and villages.

We remain open to constructive discussions with BANES and other stakeholders to help resolve this issue in the long-term, and to find a resolution that works for all of our communities.

Cllr Clewer's letter to Cllr Guy is below:

Dear Cllr Kevin Guy

Re. Cabinet 10th November 2022 - Proposal to vary the Bath CAZ Charging Order: Response from Wiltshire Council

I am aware that your Cabinet is going to consider a report this week, recommending that you consult on varying the Bath CAZ Charging Order 2021 - to introduce a charge for Euro VI diesel HGVs exceeding 12 tonnes.

You have made it very clear that this would have the net effect of disincentivising all diesel powered HGVs weighing over 12 tonnes from using the CAZ area as a through route.

I am also aware that your repairs to Cleveland Bridge are now completed, however you have decided to keep a temporary 18T weight restriction in place.

I thought it might be helpful if I gave my views on both of those aspects, prior to your Cabinet meeting.

In terms of the proposal to vary the CAZ charging Order, there is no indication that I can see of the forecast impacts of such a change.

The Cabinet report hints of there being "initial feasibility assessments" but it appears that you are asking for your Members to support an action with little, if any evidence, upon which they might form a view.

Our own correspondence with Defra last December produced the following opinion:

"(Defra's) starting point is that I would expect any proposals to modify a CAZ under the auspices of the NO2 programme to be fully evidenced and fit within the current Clean Air Zone framework and associated guidance including a thorough assessment of potential displacement".

My view is that your 'starting point' should be the same, and decision making at this stage in the absence of forecast outcomes will be otherwise compromised.

You will not be surprised that I remain strongly opposed to your continued efforts to improve conditions in Bath at the expense of Wiltshire and other authorities, particularly the potential impacts in Westbury, Corsham, Bradford on Avon and other West Wiltshire towns.

I will be considering all means possible to prevent you from doing that - both in terms of your CAZ proposals, and your continued restrictions on Cleveland Bridge.

I would be grateful if you will convey my views in full to your Cabinet Members.

Yours sincerely

Richard Clewer,
Leader
Climate Change, MCI, Economic Development, Heritage, Arts, Tourism and Health and Wellbeing

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