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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Clean Air Lead Cllr Andrew Western have commented further on plans to write to government to ask to review and amend the Clean Air Zone, which will see the most polluting commercial vehicles charged to use roads (excluding motorways) in the city-region.
GMCA Chief Executive Eamonn Boylan issued a statement on 12th January, revealing that the city-region’s Air Quality Administration Committee will seek to delay and review financial support schemes at its meeting on Thursday 20 January.
The Committee will act based on the recommendations of a report into the progress of preparations for the Clean Air Zone, due to come into effect for HGVs, buses and taxis registered outside of Greater Manchester from May 2022. Businesses have been affected by rising costs of new vehicles and supply chain challenges that have restricted the supply of new, less-polluting vehicles that will avoid the charge. Light goods vehicles, minibuses, motorhomes and GM-registered taxis will be subject to the new rules in 2023 under current plans, with financial support schemes for vehicle owners due to launch at the end of the month.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, in a comment published on the Transport for Greater Manchester website, has set out how GMCA intends to address challenges faced by businesses in complying with the rules:
“Everyone in Greater Manchester deserves to breathe clean air but we have always said this cannot be at the expense of those who cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles to make them compliant in this timeframe.
“Clean air can only be achieved by the right package of financial support to help people upgrade their vehicles, and this latest evidence highlights significant challenges in this area. We are worried about what this could mean for those businesses and individuals impacted, and their ability to upgrade as well as our ability to deliver the clean air plan.
“I want to reassure all those people who have been in touch that we are listening to you, and we will make sure your voices are heard.
“So, our Committee will be asked to call on the Secretary of State to undertake an urgent and fundamental review of the policy for the second phase of the Clean Air Zone and to put on hold the next phase of funding – which was due to open at the end of January for vans, taxis and Private Hire Vehicles – until that review is done. The government must also consider as part of that review whether some vehicles – such as motorhomes and horseboxes – that are not used for commercial reasons could be exempted from a Clean Air Zone.
“We will work with Ministers and officials to share our findings, but these are matters out of our control and we can’t solve this in Greater Manchester – only government can.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about the Clean Air Zone which is understandably worrying people. Private cars, mopeds and motorbikes are not included in the scheme. But it is important people know what it means for them. I’d encourage anyone who thinks they might be included to go to the Clean Air GM website and enter their registration number to find out if their vehicle is in scope.”
The Clean Air Zone is being introduced to comply with a government stipulation that the city-region must take steps to reduce harmful NO2 air pollution by 2024. As a result, plans for the scheme cannot be amended without the expressed permission of government.
Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council and the city-region’s Clean Air Lead, said:
“Poor air quality contributes towards 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester every year and it affects the most vulnerable people in society: deprived communities, children, elderly people and those with chronic conditions like stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and asthma. Thousands of people living in Greater Manchester suffer from heart and respiratory conditions made worse by dirty air, including the 201,000 people with asthma, 74,000 people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 99,000 people with coronary heart disease, alongside many others.
“However, we can only clean our air if people can upgrade their vehicles. This emerging new evidence highlights that the supply chain for cleaner vehicles could stop people from upgrading, especially vans which has been particularly hard-hit. As a result, the costs of second and third-hand compliant vehicles have gone up, in some cases by as much as 60 percent.
“We recognise that this is a problem for two reasons. The point of a Clean Air Zone is not to charge people for driving polluting vehicles, but to encourage them to upgrade to cleaner ones.
“If those vehicles are in short supply or are too costly for affected vehicle owners to buy, we face the real prospect of not meeting our legal duty and risk not cleaning up our air. Instead, it could place a huge financial burden on those already struggling after an incredibly challenging period brought about by the pandemic.
“We take our legal duties seriously, and with so much at stake, it can’t be right that we just ignore this and go ahead until we know more. That’s especially true because at the end of the month, the plan as it currently stands will see the next stage of the financial support scheme open – this is nearly £100m for eligible vehicle owners. But these are global and national issues that Greater Manchester cannot solve.
“But we are committed to cleaning up our air and the first phase of the Clean Air Zone from May 2022 will take the oldest and most polluting buses, HGVs and non-GM licensed Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles off Greater Manchester’s Roads. We want to encourage those businesses and individuals affected by this first stage to come forward to find out about the support available to them and are urging coach owners to apply for an exemption to 2023 if they need more time to upgrade.”