Bristol could become the UK’s first city to introduce a ban on diesel vehicles to boost air quality.
The vehicles will be prohibited from entering a central area of the city between 7am and 3pm every day under proposals by Bristol City Council.
A wider charging zone for commercial vehicles such as buses, taxis, vans and lorries which do not meet certain emissions standards is part of the measures which could be implemented by March 2021.
There is also a plan to launch a car scrappage scheme to help diesel car owners buy an alternative vehicle.
Concerns over emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have grown since Volkswagen was found in September 2015 to have cheated air pollution tests for 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, including 1.2 million in the UK.
Bristol City Council said in 2017 it was one of 24 local authorities ordered by the Government to submit a plan for how it will comply with legal limits on NO2 by March 2021.
The Government has urged councils to exhaust other options before opting to impose charging zones.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “These ambitious plans demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution so we meet legal limits within the shortest time, without disproportionally affecting citizens on lower incomes which would happen with a blanket approach to charging vehicles.
“Protecting the most vulnerable people from pollution is central to these plans and we have ensured that all impacts have been carefully considered.
“If approved, mitigation measures will support those most affected, especially those living in the most deprived communities.”
The council’s cabinet is being asked to approve the Clean Air Zone proposal at a meeting on November 5.
If the plan is passed, the council would then work on developing the scheme with the Joint Air Quality Unit established by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We recognise that efforts must be made to clean up the city’s air but as things stand, the impact of the proposals published today on people who currently drive diesel vehicles would be unprecedented.
“Major routes into, out of, and even around the city – like Temple Way and Brunel Way – would become out of bounds, with diesel vehicles forced on to other roads, which risks causing congestion problems where they don’t exist at the moment.”
Lawyer Katie Nield, of green legal group ClientEarth, said: “Bristol City Council is finally responding to residents’ pollution worries and looking to strengthen its proposals, but while these new plans represent a step in the right direction, they once again stop short of ridding the city of its illegally toxic air with the necessary urgency.”
Data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that during the first nine months of the year diesels held just 25.8% of the new car market, compared with 31.7% during the same period in 2018.
This is due to increases in the proportion of motorists buying petrol and alternatively-fuelled vehicles such as hybrids and battery electrics.