Air pollution. You can’t see it, you can’t taste it and you can not always smell it, but its definitely there. In the Bournemouth area over 50,000 residents are living with dangerous levels of air pollution according to a recent study by the environmental cities network, UK100. This startling figure contributed to the town being ranked 5th for the worst air quality in the whole of the south west of England – this despite it benefiting from the pollution reducing effects of the sea and the nearby New Forest.
Such a situation is obviously unsustainable, but what can be done? One of the biggest contributors to air pollution in the area is from cars, vans, lorries and other vehicles. Reducing the emissions from these would go a long way to improving the quality of our air and that’s got many environmental campaigners calling for Bournemouth to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). But would a CAZ choke the life out of Bournemouth’s economy? Would it deter tourists? And is investing in greener, cleaner electric vehicle infrastructure the way forward?
In this latest blog from Coversure Poole – Bournemouth’s leading independent insurance broker – we’ll look at what a CAZ could mean for the town and answer the question: What price clean air?
What is a Clean Air Zone?
A Clean Air Zone is an area of a town or city where motorists are charged to enter. How much they are charged usually depends on the level of emissions they produce. *London’s version, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, charges drivers of polluting vehicles anywhere between £12.50 for cars right up to £100 for lorrie*s. Birmingham has a similar scheme planned for 2019 and cities as varied as Southampton, Oxford, Leeds and Glasgow either have ones in mind or in preparation. The aim is to reduce the number of polluting vehicles and so improve air quality. Electric and other very low emission vehicles such as hybrids enjoy lower charges or can even be exempt.
Would a CAZ Choke the Life of Bournemouth’s Economy?
When the Congestion Charge was introduced in London in 2000, many business owners said it would kill the capital’s economy. Fast forward to 2019 and few would argue that London’s economy has done anything but thrive. Figures from Transport for London (TfL) show that traffic volumes in the charging zone are now nearly a quarter lower than a decade ago, reducing congestion times and improving the quality of the air at the same time.
But would it be the same for Bournemouth? London has some pretty sizeable advantages; the Underground, endless bus routes, black cabs and the Docklands Light Railway all make not driving an easy option in the city. Whether Bournemouth would cope as well is debatable.
Two groups of people who we know well certainly wouldn’t welcome its introduction. Bournemouth’s taxi drivers are always looking for cheap taxi insurance quotes to help make their work pay. Similarly, couriers in Bournemouth who need access to the centre would need more than our cheap courier insurance cover to make up for the charges.
Would a CAZ Drive Tourists Away?
Given 15% of Bournemouth’s economy is driven by tourism – over £500m annually – any impact on the sector needs to be taken seriously. Be it owners of holiday homes in Poole having to pay more to get to their place in paradise, the burgeoning market for Bournemouth’s Airbnb owners finding their properties harder to let or café and restaurant owners seeing a dip in trade as access to the town is expensive, there’s a lot that could go wrong.
However, as we have seen with the awarding of blue flags for beaches, alleviating environmental and pollution concerns can deliver dividends. If the town were to introduce a CAZ and could present itself as not only the proud possessor of four blue flags but also as having clean air and a public transport system that is the envy of the region, then green tourist pounds could flood in.
Is a CAZ Coming to Bournemouth?
In May 2017 DEFRA and the DfT published the Clean Air Zone Framework which set out the principles for the operation of Clean Air Zones in England. As part of its phase 3 planning, 33 councils including Bournemouth were asked to look at plans to tackle air pollution. While this doesn’t mean a CAZ is on the way – councils such as Hull have already ruled the idea of one out on practical grounds – it could be an initiative they could consider. One of the attractions – the attraction detractors say – is that a CAZ is a revenue raiser, something that most councils are keen to find. For the moment we shall have to wait and see…
Is Going Electric a Realistic Alternative?
It seems everyone is talking about electric vehicles at the moment. Their potential to cut emissions by up to 50% is a big draw, and with more and more models coming to market everyone from private car drivers to fleet owners to even special types fleet owners are looking into them.
As a long-term solution they’d be hard to bet against. In the short-term, however, there are considerable challenges. Bournemouth only has 5 fast charging points at the time of writing and with vehicle ranges still limited, a rural county like Dorset is going to struggle to cope. Switching over will also take years as there are so many legacy diesel and petrol cars on our streets. If we want clean air soon, then electric isn’t the way forward alas.
Does Bournemouth Need a Clean Air Zone?
It’s possible that a clean air zone or some other system of charging could cause pain to the local economy, at least in the short-term. Taxi drivers, couriers and shop owners would all be hit by extra costs and lower footfall. Retailers could benefit in the longer term so long as the council invested any revenue into improved public transport which would make getting in and out of the town easier. A reduction in congestion – as seen in London – would be good for business as a whole though, and, at the end of the day: What price clean air?
Like Some Insurance Help?
If you’d like some more help getting the right insurance for your car, taxi or fleet then please get in touch. We’ll be happy to give the benefit of our experience, give you all the advice you need and we can also offer you a highly-competitive, no-obligation motor insurance quote. You can call the Coversure Poole team on (01202) 801 782 or email us by clicking here.