Disabled People Must Not Pay The Price For Clean Air

Hundreds of Disabled people are created and die because of Bristol’s dirty air crisis every year.  We need to clean our air quickly, but the clean air zone (CAZ) needs to centre the needs of the most disadvantaged in our city. The current plans will impact most on Disabled people and people with long term health conditions.  These people are already struggling due to austerity, the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. The scheme could mean many Disabled people lose access to a car, be trapped in their homes and face fines that will drive them even deeper into poverty, causing serious harm to their wellbeing and health. 

The 2021 Equality Impact Assessment on the CAZ recognised that are “disproportionately” felt by Disabled people. Despite the council knowing this, insufficient mitigations have been put in place. We understand that some elements of the scheme are controlled by central Government, however, the council could do a lot more to make the scheme accessible.  

Problems include:

Insufficient Funding: There isn’t enough financial support available to be able to get a vehicle that can be used in the zone. People have to work or volunteer for a certain number of hours to be eligible. Yet the Disability Employment Gap means that only 53.2% for Disabled people are in work compared to 81.8% non-Disabled people (Office for National Statistics, 2019). There aren’t exemptions if you can’t work for health reasons. Even if a person does qualify, the funding won’t be enough to re-adapt a car. Auto Chair research has found that a brand-new vehicle with modifications can cost around £40,000 and second-hand is little better. The £2,000 on offer doesn’t begin to cover theses costs. Meanwhile, Motability support is only for those on higher or enhanced mobility benefits, so many can’t get this support.

Lack of Sufficient Public Transport Alternatives: One component of the grant scheme offers credits to individuals to use public transport or Voi. However, 18 bus services will be lost in November and a further 10 community transport services have recently ended. Buses in Bristol are also often inaccessible and unaffordable for Disabled people.

Short Exemption Period: While there is an exemption period for blue badge holders this only lasts until March 2023. You must register your Blue Badge with Bristol City Council for this exemption to work and this exemption is only valid on one car. This registering can only be done by using the internet or by phoning up. If you usually use your Blue Badge in multiple cars, you will have to register multiple cars with Blue Badge in advance of travelling. After this period the only exemption is to become registered Disabled Road tax class, which can only be applied for by those on higher or enhanced benefits. Benefits (such as PIP) get denied often and unfairly, so people can lose their exemption. This puts the burden on the individual to appeal the PIP decision to become registered Disabled Road tax again.

Unaffordable Charges: The daily charge is £9 and people have only 6 days to pay before getting fined £120. This is unaffordable when Disabled people make up over a third of adults in poverty. 6 days to pay is unreasonable for people who also face considerable other barriers and may experience cognitive dysfunction. You can only pay for this by using the internet or by phone and you don’t receive an alert if you have entered the zone and need to pay.

Accessibility of service information: The Clean Air Zone team understands accessible information as meaning non-technical language. We need all forms of the Clean Air Zone information to be fully accessible for Disabled people, including Easy Read and BSL.


It doesn’t have to be this way. We call on the council to make the following changes to make the scheme just:

  1. Increased financial support for those who need to re-adapt vehicles.
  2. Continued exemption for Blue Badge Holders or other exemptions for those who aren’t Disabled Tax class eligible.
  3. Exemptions to include Disabled people or those with long term health conditions who are unemployed or retired.
  4. More accessible options to contact the CAZ team and pay fines.
  5. Automatic notifications for people driving into the CAZ so they don’t unknowingly get faced with fines.
  6. An extended period to pay before being issued a fine.
  7. Disability Equality training for phone line operators so that they can talk appropriately to Disabled people.
  8. All information to have Easy Read versions ready.
  9. A fully accessible Clean Air Zone webpage.  (Accessible here referring to meeting the needs of Disabled people.)
  10. Make accessible and affordable public transport a priority.

The cost of clean air can’t be the independence of Disabled people. But with a little care the scheme could be made fair for all.

Making a complaint

A citizen can make a complaint by:

  1. Filling in a complaints form on the council website https://www.bristol.gov.uk/complaints-and-feedback/other-complaints-and-feedback
  2. Sending an email to complaints.feedback@bristol.gov.uk
  3. Writing to Customer Relations (100 TS), PO Box 3399, Bristol, ​​​​​​​BS1 9NE

The Forum will be taking more action on this issue. More news on this to come soon.

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