'Clean air zone' plans mean diesel drivers could face charges

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The charge is set to be introduced in just under four weeks on the 15 March to become the first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) installed outside London. Bath and North East Somerset Council has already confirmed private cars will not be charged under the scheme.

However vans, light goods vehicles and pick-ups will be hit with a £9 daily charge which will massively affect small business owners.

Meanwhile, heavy goods vehicles such as trucks and lorries will be charged up to £100 per day to use the roads which could have a major impact on some firms.

The charges will run from midnight to midnight, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

Speaking to ITV, Mike Stiff, a tree surgeon in Bath, warned the charges could affect those who regularly commute through the city centre to get to jobs.

He claimed extra debt was the “last thing you need” after the coronavirus pandemic as he added he would not be able to afford to pay the daily rate.

He said it was unlikely customers would want the extra charge passed onto them meaning it would be up to business owners to foot the bill.

Mr Stiff said: “I can’t afford that and my clients certainly won’t want me to pass that on to them.

“The cost of upgrading is going to be phenomenal and with the cost of Covid and everything that’s been going on it’s going to be quite crippling.

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“Despite the offer of grants and loans it’s still debt at a time when debt is the last thing you need, isn’t it?”

The Deputy Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Richard Samuel backed the charges as polluting models were “poisoning people”.

He said the Council has worked to encourage businesses to update their cars or replace them ahead of the new rule.

He told ITV: “Let’s be very clear about this, nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel vehicles are poisoning people.

“There has been a huge amount of work to encourage businesses either to retrofit their vehicles or to replace them.”

The Council has introduced a range of exemptions and discounts for affected drivers but upgrades can still be expensive.

Vehicles which are eligible for a local exemption must be registered up to 14 days before a journey into the zone.

Until the exemption is approved, drivers must continue paying the charge or risk being fined.

Exemptions are being considered for hard to replace vehicles, support for health and emergency services and vehicles which support vulnerable groups.

Drivers who have taken delivery of cleaner vehicles may also be considered for a temporary exemption while drivers can also apply for some financial assistance.

But the council has warned any exemptions only apply in Bath’s Clean Air Zone meaning road users cannot take advantage of other cities schemes.

Another Clean Air Zones will be installed in Bristol later this year while the London ULEZ will also be expanded. 

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