What price will we pay for clean air ?
The Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which started earlier in March in Bath, looks like a fair way of improving air quality in the more polluted areas of the city centre, especially the stretch along the London Road. Our Chamber was able to contribute to the consultation and it was eventually agreed that cars would not be charged.
But it’s a different story in Bristol, which is intending starting its CAZ sometime in the autumn. At the moment they are intending, not only to charge cars going into the centre of the City, but even those crossing the Cumberland Bridge and going along the A4 Portway which drivers from the Chew Valley would use as their normal route to the M5 to Wales and the Midlands and to places such as the Cribbs Causeway Shopping Centre. None of those vehicles would be entering the congested and polluted city centre but just going around the perimeter of Bristol.
We’ve already raised this concern with our MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and he is drawing it to the attention of the Minister concerned, because, whilst strictly speaking it’s not in his constituency, he recognised the impact it could have on motorists in North East Somerset.
Obviously no one would object to having the benefit of cleaner air, but great care needs to be taken when setting up a CAZ to ensure it doesn’t come at too great a cost. Bath and North East Somerset Council consulted widely, they set the boundaries of the zone as close to the polluted centre as possible and they provided excellent advice and grants for owners of vehicles such as diesel vans, which are going to be charged if they are non-compliant. If you have a non-compliant vehicle and regularly go into Bath you should contact the Council for help if you haven’t already done so. We’ll need to keep a close eye on developments in Bristol.
Meanwhile our Vice President, Rod Podger, has been keeping watch on the latest developments in finance which will affect businesses and he wanted to highlight two issues in particular.
First, VAT payments could be deferred from last year. There is a further 11 month interest free extension period available but it’s not automatic and you must opt in online.
Second, if you have any self-assessment payments due in January which are not yet paid or already put on a payment plan you should contact HMRC as soon as possible. He says they are quite amenable to setting up plans but quite the opposite if they are just ignored.