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Bristol council cabinet will meet later this month to decide on its controversial Clean Air Zone with an expected launch date now set for October 2021. However, it has been revealed drivers of polluting vehicles will only be able to use the Cabot Circus multi-storey car park in the city centre to avoid incurring any charges.
The car park is situated just outside the city’s new payment zone meaning this would become a target for owners of polluting petrol and diesel cars.
The boundary of the CAZ was changed so vehicles could enter and leave the car park without incurring fees.
However, Labour Councillor Jo Sergeant has warned owners of the space could decide to “put charges up” once they had a “monopoly” over the area.
She said: “They could decide to put the charges up if they know they’ve effectively got a monopoly on car owners or owners of particular types of cars, so I just wondered whether that’s been investigated.
“I think it’s quite an expensive car park, and I understand that if you want to go shopping in Bristol you do really need to use the bus.
“But there are exceptions and there are just reasons why people don’t always do that – even well-behaved people sometimes need to use their cars.”
The Council’s Head of Strategic City Transport, Adam Crowther said he understood the point but it was “difficult” to look at any further.
This was because private car parks are allowed to charge whatever they like and regulating this would be outside the council’s control.
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He made clear leaving the car park outside of the zone was not about “promoting” one site against another.
Instead, this was the only multi-storey in the city which it was feasible to provide access to without needing to update massive portions of the proposed zone.
He added: “Initially it wasn’t in the zone, but we felt having no multi-storeys that could be accessed by those vehicles would be unreasonable.”
“We couldn’t really provide access to any of the other multi-stories because of where they are.”
The Cabot Circus car park currently costs drivers £2.30 for the first hour with costs going up in increments depending on how long drivers wish to stay.
The car park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can hold a total of 2,500 cars.
The site is located just a stone’s throw away from Bristol Royal Infirmary, Castle Park and the University of Bristol.
Councillor Sergeant added: “They are going to gain out of this.
“I don’t know by how much but if they aren’t currently full, I am sure they are going to get more full than they are now because they will get all those cars that can’t, or decide that they can’t, park anywhere else.
“So it does seem to me something that…somebody should be having a conversation with the owner about that.”
Current Clean Air Zone estimates suggest owners of petrol and diesel cars could be charged up to £9 per day to drive into town.
Charges would only apply to diesel cars which are Euro 5 or older and petrol vehicles which are Euro 3 or older.
Heavy Goods Vehicles, buses and coaches are expected to be charged £100 per day to drive through the city centre.
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