The RHA has called on the government to review its clean air zone (CAZ) policy after another local authority said it was looking at alternative ways of improving air quality without charging drivers.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said officials are exploring opportunities to transform travel in a bid to clean up the city’s air quality in the shortest possible time.

The move comes after the government had ordered Bristol City Council to impose a clean air zone (CAZ) to bring emissions to within legal limits.

But changes to travel patterns as a result of Covid-19 have shown new possibilities, Rees said, as city centre pollution has remained relatively low.

“Our plans have always been about cleaning up our air in the fastest possible time and not being anchored to one method," he explained. "We must be flexible in our approach and work together to get this right as a city. Everyone has a role to play in reducing air pollution and if we all rise to the challenge, we can avoid bringing in costly measures.

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“We will continue to do the work needed for the charging options we’ve already been developing. It is right that we explore new opportunities in line with the dramatic changes in our lifestyles, travel and income that residents and small businesses experienced following lockdown. The end result could actually achieve cleaner air faster whilst avoiding unintended negative consequences caused by charging vulnerable communities in Bristol."

Chris Ashley, the RHA’s head of policy on the environment and regulation, welcomed the move which followed Leeds City Council’s announcement that they are suspending their CAZ for the 'foreseeable future’ amid Covid-19 uncertainty.

“I’m pleased that with their changed approach Bristol and Leeds appear to be taking on board the points we’re making," he said. "We hear reports that air quality substantially improved during the pandemic and that travel patterns are changing.

“Forcing councils to deliver economically damaging plans for clean air zones that were devised in a different world is not appropriate. The government must now understand the causes of the improved air quality and reset their policy approach.”

"We want clean air but ‘green recovery’ ambitions must be sustainable and driven by sensible policies that nurture economic growth," he added.

NOx pollution levels from lorries have fallen by around 60% since 2013, according to the RHA’s annual NOx emissions assessment published last week.