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  3. The aim of Bath's Clean Air Zone

The purpose of Bath's Clean Air Zone

Bath's Clean Air Zone will help the city meet UK air quality legislation.

Several places in Bath currently exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution which is mainly caused by vehicle emissions. This situation is unacceptable because of the role that poor air quality plays in damaging health. 

The legal limit for concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is 40μg/m3 as an annual average. You can view air quality monitoring data for the area at our air quality web pages

Health impacts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution

Unfortunately, poor air quality is harmful to our most vulnerable residents - children, elderly people and those already unwell. 

High levels of NO2 can cause:

  • Inflammation of the airways, coughing and shortness of breath (short-term exposure)
  • Worsening of existing lung or heart conditions, including asthma and emphysema and bronchitis (COPD)
  • Increased susceptibility to allergens and respiratory infections 

Over the long-term, high levels of NO2 can affect children’s lung development, and there is evidence that children who grow up in highly polluted areas are more likely to develop asthma. 

Research also links high levels of NO2 with increased possibility of heart attack and dementia.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution is thought to contribute to as many as 36,000 early deaths in the UK each year. 

Background on our decision to introduce a clean air zone

In 2017, the government directed us to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the city in the shortest possible time. It is providing all of the funds for us to do this, and the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) is independently verifying all of the work being done.

Our technical work has shown that a charging zone for traffic is the only measure that can achieve compliance in the required time frame - effectively deterring the majority of higher emission vehicles from driving in the inner city area by charging them to drive into the zone.

Following a public consultation in Oct/Nov 2018, the council agreed to introduce a class C charging clean air zone with traffic management at Queen Square, charging all higher emission vehicles, except private cars and motorcycles, to drive in Bath’s city centre from 15 March 2021. 

Traffic management in Queen Square is a necessary compromise to enable us to avoid charging private cars. It also helps to moderate traffic flow to other parts of the city, where emissions would rise to unacceptable levels if large queues were allowed to form.

For full, detailed information on the development of the CAZ, including impact assessments, please see our Final business case documents

While we are not charging private cars, the council is currently looking at lots of ways to improve walking, cycling and public transport to encourage more people to choose more sustainable ways of getting around. 

We ask that all drivers consider whether or not they need to take their vehicle, and to consider walking, cycling or taking public transport instead, especially for shorter cross-city journeys.

Read the Bath Clean Air Zone Charging Order