PEOPLE in Wiltshire have welcomed the possibility of a U-turn by Bath and North East Somerset Council on its proposed Clean Air Zone charges for cars.

Following a huge response to the public consultation, the council looks likely to exempt cars from the daily charges, proposed to reduce air pollution.

Cllr Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Concerns were expressed by some Wiltshire people potentially having to pay the charge when driving to RUH, butIf all cars are exempt, this will benefit our residents. We await with interest the outcome of their cabinet discussion on the issue next week.”

Lance Allan, chief executive of Trowbridge Town Council, said: “The recommendation to exempt cars from the proposed Bath CAZ appear to address some of the concerns that Trowbridge Town Council had expressed in its response to the proposal from B&NES.

“Trowbridge Town Council will remain concerned that high-emission large vehicles will still effectively be excluded from using the main A36 through Bath and will seek alternative routes via Bradford on Avon, Staverton and Trowbridge, resulting in more traffic and poorer air quality in these communities.”

Cllr Ian Cunningham, mayor of Westbury, said: “Obviously, reducing the amount of redirected traffic is an improvement for Westbury and will help those who have to drive to Bath for services such as medical care.

“We are still concerned about the redirection of HGVs through our town, which has its own air quality problems.

“I still question the need to stop the A36 route – particularly since Bath can now apparently allow all diesel cars – which strongly suggests that the original arguments that the closure of the A36 route through Bath was necessary to meet targets was not true.”

Cllr Dominic Newton, leader of Bradford on Avon Town Council, said: “On first glance, the inclusion of additional areas on the south-east edge of the city actually looks like more of an incentive for the more polluting HGVs (those we would be most concerned about) to avoid Bath altogether while watering down the proposal on cars on the basis that it will sort itself out in the medium-term anyway.”

“I would welcome the incentivisation for buses and lorries to be cleaner – though note, cautiously, that evidence from elsewhere suggests that all that does is see the older vehicles moved to areas that don’t have restrictions in place, rather than see them removed from fleets entirely.”

Cllr Bob Goodman, of B&NES Council, said: “This has been a significant task and has now resulted in officers being able to recommend a scheme that exempts cars from charges, safeguards the long-term health of people and meets the needs of our busy, vibrant city.”