Air pollution in Bristol
What is air pollution, what causes air pollution in Bristol, and how we’re working to reduce it.
What is air pollution
Air pollution is gases or particles in the air that are harmful to humans and the environment.
The impacts are worse when:
- the concentration of gases and particles is higher
- people are exposed to gases and particles for a long time
Air pollution and health
Air pollution is often invisible, but has serious implications for our health.
Evidence shows that spending time in areas with high levels of air pollution can:
- worsen asthma symptoms
- damage lung function
- increase the chance of getting a number of other conditions, such as a heart condition
Air pollution is linked with around 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.
Air pollution in Bristol
In September 2017, we published the Annual Status Report and submitted it to the government.
Bristol regularly breaks the annual mean threshold on pollution caused by NO2.
Air pollution peaks at rush hour. It’s worse:
- in winter
- on still days
- closer to main roads
A recent report into the health effects of air pollution in Bristol showed that around 300 deaths each year in Bristol are connected to exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter. This is about 8.5% of deaths.
Air pollution causes in Bristol
Air pollution in Bristol is largely due to:
- nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is caused mainly from road traffic, particularly diesel engines
- particulate matter, which is caused mainly from exhausts, vehicle braking and tyres as well as from burning solid fuels, such as wood, in factories and homes
Diesel vehicles contribute 96% of air pollution from transport:
- diesel cars cause 40%
- diesel buses and coaches cause 23%
- diesel vans cause 22%
We’re working with the government to reduce the pollution that buses create.
EU and UK Government air quality requirements
To protect people’s health, the European Union and the UK Government has set legal standards for a range of air pollutants.
The government has asked 27 cities, including Bristol, to take action on air pollution.
These cities have to investigate, report back on and put in place measures to reduce pollution in a short time. They need to take into account how much these measures would cost both the council and drivers who might be impacted.
The most effective way to do this is to charge the vehicles that cause most air pollution to enter the most polluted parts of the city.
The government has directed councils to:
- look into all alternatives to charging people first
- only resort to charging if nothing else would help the city stay within legal limits in the timescale they set
What the government asked us to do
In July 2017, the government formally directed us to:
- put together a feasibility study by 31 March 2018
- establish options to help Bristol stay within legal limits for nitrogen dioxide in the shortest possible time
- decide on the best, cheapest, and quickest option by 31 December 2018
How we’re developing the Bristol Clean Air Plan
The Government gave us funding in 2017 to put together a feasibility study for a Clean Air Zone.
We’ve put together a list of over 70 options on how to improve air quality in Bristol by:
- investing in public transport and cycling
- changing the way we manage traffic
- supporting and encouraging a shift to cleaner vehicles, including creating Clean Air Zones
We’ll look into these options to decide which are most likely to help us bring air pollution within legal limits in the shortest time possible.
We’ll take different packages of measures forward and go through them in more detail. We’ll then decide on the final option.
The packages are:
- a non-charging Clean Air Zone with 17 complementary non-charging interventions
- a charging Clean Air Zone (medium size, class C: all vehicles except cars) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions
- a charging Clean Air Zone (medium size, class D: all vehicles) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions
- a charging Clean Air Zone (small size, class C: all vehicles except cars) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions
- a charging Clean Air Zone (small size, class D: all vehicles) with 12 complementary non-charging interventions
We’ll need to submit each stage of the work to the Cabinet and central Government for their approval, before we can move to the next stage.
Bristol Clean Air Plan: Draft Strategic Outline Case
We’re currently putting together the feasibility study.
The Strategic Outline Case will go to cabinet on 6 March 2018. (pdf, 374k) (opens new window)
We’ll be talking to the public and main associates over spring and summer 2018.
We’ll open formal consultations on the proposals in October 2018.
Read more details on air pollution in Bristol (pdf, 364k) (opens new window) .