THE WELSH Government has said road charges are a "last resort" after an air quality bill was passed in the Senedd.

The Welsh Government's Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill was approved by the Senedd on Tuesday.

Clwyd West MS Darren Millar has hit out at the new legislation which gives the government power to introduce charges on major A roads.

The World Health Organisation has described air pollution as the world’s largest single environmental health risk and noise pollution as the second largest risk in Western Europe.

The Bill, which was introduced to the Senedd in March 2023, implements measures that contribute to improvements in the quality of the air environment in Wales and reduces the impacts of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, the natural environment and the economy.  Poor air quality is thought to contribute to 1,400 premature deaths per year. 

The Welsh Government is the first government in the UK to bring forward legislation that requires governmental consideration of soundscapes, and the Bill places a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution and to publish a progressive national soundscapes strategy.


However, Darren Millar MS, shadow Minister for North Wales, said it is the "latest offensive in Labour's war on motorists". 
"It paves the way for the introduction of road charges on trunk roads across North Wales such as the A55, A470, A494, A5 and A483 and could hit people’s pockets hard," he said. 
"It's all very well to incentivise people in urban centres like Cardiff to choose public transport but those options are not available to many people in North Wales where public transport is poor, particularly in rural areas."
He added: "Owning a car in many parts of North Wales is essential and many people in the region have no option other than to drive on a trunk road to get to work, education, medical appointments or the shops; road charging would be a tax on all of those things.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "While the Environment Bill allows Clean Air Zones to be used as a last resort to tackle areas with persistent high air pollution, there are no plans to introduce them in Wales.

"To be clear, 20 mph restrictions in residential and built-up areas have been implemented to save lives. They were not introduced as an environmental initiative."