A drivers' group has urged the government to reject the proposed diesel ban set out by Bristol City Council.

As it stands, the ban would see privately owned diesel cars banned from a “small” area of the city centre between the hours of 7am and 3pm, seven days a week. There would also be a so-called clean air zone (CAZ) in the city centre, which would see vehicles such as HGVs charged to enter if they do not meet certain emissions standards.

The plan was revealed at the end of last month, and has since been approved by the council cabinet. A business case will be created, and the final proposals will then be put before the government next year. If the government approves, the scheme could swing into action in April 2021.

Clifton Suspension Bridge spanning Avon Gorge in Bristol UK

However, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has urged the government to turn down the proposals, arguing that the most modern diesel-powered cars are as clean as their petrol equivalents. It’s an argument backed up by research from ADAC, the German motoring organisation, which found that the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions of the VW Golf 1.6 diesel were identical to those of the 1.5 petrol. The organisation also found the Mercedes-Benz C 220d emitted no nitrogen oxides at all.

“The Alliance of British Drivers is calling on the government to reject Bristol’s proposals, which will cause huge inconvenience to drivers and businesses,” said Paul Biggs, the ABD’s environment spokesperson. “Real world emissions tests by ADAC of Germany demonstrated that some diesel cars tested were cleaner than the equivalent petrol models, yet they are facing a ban in Bristol. It’s also clear that clean air zones in general need a rethink as they take at least an order of magnitude more in revenue out of local economies than even the claimed value of benefits.”

Busy street in central Bristol England

But the mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said the clean air zone was “legally required”, and argued that the city had to choose between the existing “hybrid” clean air plan or a much larger clean air zone, similar to London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

“We have a simple choice ahead of us for a legally required clean air zone,” he said in a blog post. “The hybrid plan tabled to cabinet for a commercial vehicle charge and small area diesel ban, or a large area charging zone, for all vehicles.

“Bristol is one of many cities that have been tasked with producing a clean air zone. The drive for this is obvious, that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) particulates in the air cause health concerns and illnesses and must be improved. NO2 is predominantly produced by motor vehicles and diesel vehicles are the biggest producer.

Dual carriageway in Bristol UK

“Bristol, like other cities, has to become compliant on air quality levels in the shortest possible time. Charging private drivers to come into the city gets us to compliance later and also, significantly, is proven to disproportionately impact on the lowest income families.

“The hybrid plan, tabled to cabinet and recommended by the experts, is the quickest route to compliance and charges no private vehicles. For people who do not support the current proposal, including the small-area diesel ban, you are left with having to implement a larger-area charging zone that reaches compliance later.”

Newfoundland Circus Bristol City Centre UK