Operators of older vans face incurring charges in Bath when the city adopts a clean air zone (CAZ).
Under the proposals by Bath and North East Somerset Council, the scheme is set to come into force in December 2020.
The ‘Class C’ scheme will see non-Euro 6 compliant diesel and non-Euro 4 compliant petrol vans facing a £9 per day charge to enter the zone, which also affects taxis, private hire vehicles, buses, coaches and HGVs.
The council decided against a scheme that would also have charged private car drivers.
It says some businesses will be offered interest-free loans to upgrade pre-Euro 6 LCVs, while businesses with Euro 4 or 5 diesel vans unable to obtain a loan will be able to apply for a concession to 1 January 2023.
The council says the CAZ will drive down ‘dangerous levels of pollution’ and provide long-term health benefits for residents and visitors.
However, the announcement of the CAZ has been criticised by the FTA.
Its policy manager for the south west Chris Yarsley said: “A Class C charging CAZ is the very worst option for local businesses in Bath and the regional economy; the FTA is perplexed as to why Bath and North East Somerset Council decided to exclude private cars and place the heavy financial burden of improving the city’s air quality on commercial vehicle operators.
“This decision is tantamount to a stealth tax on the hard-working local businesses and vehicle operators which already contribute so much to the public purse and help keep Bath functioning by delivering the goods and services supermarkets, schools, and other businesses need to operate.”
Yarsley said other measures should instead have been considered.
He said: “CAZs are not the most effective way to improve air quality; other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy.
“Bath and North East Somerset Council would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, instead of implementing a scheme that would cost businesses and damage the local economy.
“However, if it is convinced that it must implement a charging zone, the council must take all steps available to mitigate its damage to local business, for example by ensuring the size of the zone is as small as possible, and major industrial areas exempted.”