Clean Air Zone has turned South Bristol streets into rat run say residents

People living in some parts of South Bristol say their streets have become even more of a rat run since the introduction of the Clean Air Zone three-quarters of a mile away.

Residents of Windmill Hill say their narrow Victorian residential streets have always been used as a cut through between Bedminster and Knowle, but ever since the Clean Air Zone was introduced at the end of November, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of vans using their roads to avoid the charge.

The issue has already caused something of a political row at City Hall, with the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees accusing a local councillor who raised it of being ‘negative’.

Read next: Drivers to Bristol Airport ‘feel mugged’ by Clean Air Zone’s Portway ‘trap’

The issue has been raised by residents of Windmill Hill, who have long complained their area is used as a cut-through by drivers going to Bedminster Bridge from the rest of South Bristol. Following the closure of the northbound Malago Road at the start of this year, and then with the introduction of the Clean Air Zone, the problem has got worse.

One local resident, Piers Newberry, said residents have been asking for something to be done to stop it being used as a rat run for 20 years, and the problem is noticeably worse now.

“The council has failed to do anything for 20 years about the increased traffic in Cotswold Road,” he said. “Cllr Ed Plowden has battled endlessly to try and get some action, but has been blocked at every turn. The traffic has been amplified by the Malago Road being closed, and the Clean Air Zone charge along the river.

“So now, anyone heading into town from the Wells Road who wants to visit Screwfix or Whitehouse Lane has a £9 incentive to rat run down our road. Guess what – they are. It is a nightmare,” he added.

The closure of Malago Road to vehicle traffic northbound happened in January this year as the Bedminster Green regeneration development got underway. That means the only way to access either the Whitehouse Lane industrial estates or the businesses on Malago Road, is by going up to the river and then back down Bedminster Parade to Malago Road from the north – or cutting through Windmill Hill along Cotswold Road.

The introduction of Clean Air Zone meant non-compliant vehicles could only access Bedminster Parade and the Whitehouse Lane industrial estates by going through Windmill Hill, unless they were prepared to pay the Clean Air Zone charge and access that area from the roads along the river. Bristol City Council have opened up a CAZ loophole diversion that allows non-compliant vehicles to enter the zone on Coronation Road without being charged, but residents in Windmill Hill said it hasn’t really helped.

“Look at the map showing where a driver would have to go to get to Whitehouse Lane – it’s a ridiculous spiral route, so of course they are going to think, well I could just go through Windmill Hill, and they do,” said Mr Newberry, who has lived on Cotswold Road for 22 years.

“The difference the closure of Malago Road made was noticeable, but since the Clean Air Zone started it’s got a lot worse. It used to be that traffic along these roads was pretty much one for one cars and vans going either way up the road. Now, for every one car or van heading south, there’s four or five heading north towards Bedminster station,” he added.

Windmill Hill already is a labyrinth of one way streets and cul de sacs, but even with a tortuous route created by no entry signs, drivers are still cutting through as a way to avoid the Clean Air Zone, residents say.

“They need to do something, anything. The best solution would be to stop up one end of the road to traffic, but failing that, speed bumps or some kind of traffic calming to slow things down would be better,” he added.

Local councillor Ed Plowden (Green, Windmill Hill) has been raising the issue at City Hall to find solutions, and last week raised the issue at the Members Forum, where councillors can ask the Mayor questions. He asked how the council was monitoring the effects of the Clean Air Zone on the areas that surround it, but got short shrift from the Mayor.

A graphic map showing the diversion for motorists in vehicles that don't comply with the Clean Air Zone charges, to access the Whitehouse Lane industrial estates in Bedminster, around the closed northbound A38 Malago Road
A graphic map showing the diversion for motorists in vehicles that don’t comply with the Clean Air Zone charges, to access the Whitehouse Lane industrial estates in Bedminster, around the closed northbound A38 Malago Road
(Image: Bristol City Council)

“There will be monitoring of the Clean Air Zone, and we are seeing recent installation of counters on roads, which is presumed to be part of this plan. What is the monitoring plan, its

timing and the plan to identify and put in place mitigation for unintended negative consequences, particularly for neighbourhoods on the edges of the zone?”

The Mayor of Bristol replied calling out the quality of Cllr Plowden’s question. “The Lord Mayor has set out an aspiration for better debate in the chamber,” the Mayor responded. “Your question picks out the negatives. Can you confirm whether you support the Clean Air Zone or not? The way the CAZ works is to incentivise improvements to Bristol’s vehicle fleet, thereby improving air quality across the whole city. No area outside of the zone becomes noncompliant,” he added.

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