The majority of British motorists are set against the idea of banning diesel-powered cars from city centres, according to new research.

A recent survey found 84 percent of UK drivers were opposed to diesel bans in city centres, such as the ban proposed by Bristol. The study, commissioned by independent car retailer Motorpoint, surveyed around 1,000 British motorists.

The figures come less than a month after Bristol City Council confirmed its intention to ban diesels from the city centre from 2021. The ban, which the council describes as “ambitious”, will see the introduction of a “small-area” diesel ban for private cars, alongside a charging zone for “non-compliant” commercial vehicles, such as buses and HGVs.

Busy street in central Bristol England

Bristol’s ban will not be a 24/7 measure, though, after the council’s finalised plan limited the ban to an eight-hour period between 7am and 3pm, seven days a week. The so-called “hybrid” plan of diesel ban and clean air zone will be complemented by a scrappage scheme to help encourage residents into greener vehicles.

When the plan was announced, Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, said: “These ambitious plans demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution so we meet legal limits within the shortest time, without disproportionately affecting citizens on lower incomes which would happen with a blanket approach to charging vehicles. Protecting the most vulnerable people from pollution is central to these plans and we have ensured that all impacts have been carefully considered. If approved, mitigation measures will support those most affected, especially those living in the most deprived communities.”

Newfoundland Circus Bristol City Centre UK

The ban has already been met with resistance from several motoring groups, with the RAC claiming the scheme would have an “unprecedented” impact on drivers. The Alliance of British Drivers, meanwhile, argued that the most modern diesel-powered cars are as clean as their petrol equivalents. However, the council said the alternative option - an enlarged clean air zone that would see drivers charged to enter the city - would impact poorer families “disproportionately”.

Mark Carpenter, Chief Executive Officer of Motorpoint, said: “We applaud efforts by local authorities to create ‘clean air zones’ in our towns and cities but the message from motorists is that a blanket ban on privately-owned diesel drivers, especially when two out of five vehicles on the road today are diesels, won’t work and local authorities need to go back to the drawing board in order to come up with a solution that doesn’t just penalise diesel drivers.”

Porsche Diesel logo

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said the diesel ban was a "compromise" designed to make the city's air quality comply with legal minimum standards in the shortest possible time.

"We considered various options to see what would work best and what we have opted for is the one which gets us to legal levels in the quickest possible time – by 2025," he said. "The alternate option to this would be what is called a CAZ D, where all private cars would be charged to go into a clean air zone. This would obviously have a much bigger impact on car drivers, especially those that are on lower incomes. So the option we have gone for is a compromise to try and balance things out. If you were to make adjustments to these plans to allow all cars, that would mean it would take longer for us to reach legal levels and potentially face legal action."