The use of diesel vehicles by fleets and domestic drivers in Bristol city centre could soon be prohibited after plans to introduce a ban and a clean air zone charge were approved by the cabinet of Bristol City Council earlier this month.

The proposals would see the use of all diesel-powered vehicles banned in the most central areas of Bristol, while a bigger charging zone would be incorporated, requiring owners of inefficient commercial vehicles such as taxis and buses to pay for access. Domestic vehicles would not be required to pay for access in the current plans.

Bristol City Council is also keen to raise awareness of vehicle recycling and encourage more owners of inefficient models to scrap their older diesel vehicles.

Should the council’s proposals curry favour with the UK government, the proposals are expected to take effect from March 2021.

The Bristol City Council website outlines the Full Business Case for the clean air zone, while further consultations are due to take place with the local public regarding their preference between ‘Option 1’ and Option 2’ zone boundaries.

Nigel Base, commercial vehicle manager, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), fears that Bristol City Council’s proposals are too vague and could result in confusion among commercial drivers.

“We want to see all cities, including Bristol, meet their targets and continue to invest in ever more advanced technology to help improve our environment,” said Base.

“However, this proposed blanket ban, which goes against government guidelines, fails to distinguish between modern vehicles and decades-old technologies and will only cause confusion for drivers while also undermining efforts to boost air quality.

“Instead of the proposed ban, we need a clear and consistent national approach to clean air zones hat incentivises uptake of the latest, low emission vehicles, including new Euro 6 diesels, which are the cleanest ever produced, alongside improvements to traffic flow and investment in charging infrastructure.”

However, the proposals are viewed more positively by Thomas Newby, chief operating officer at renewable energy firm, Tonik Energy, who believes the zone goes “one-step further than London’s clean air zone policy”.

“This has set a precedent for cities across the UK and collaborative action is now needed to ensure this plan does not fall victim to policy paralysis,” said Newby.

“As electric vehicles become the new normal – as we expect to see in Bristol – there will be increasing pressure on private and public sector stakeholders to ensure the infrastructure is in place to support the boom in clean, green motoring.”