Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) have made renewed calls for the government to commit to funding the city-region’s Clean Air Plan. The call comes following the announcement of a new Environment Bill in the Queen’s Speech that will increase powers for local authorities.
Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan proposes the creation of the UK’s largest Clean Air Zone, a trebling of the electric car charging network, and support for businesses to switch to lower-emission vehicles in a bid to meet targets to reduce NO2 levels by 2024.
Since submitting the proposal, the government has committed to £36 million of funding for the Clean Air Plan to charge the most polluting commercial vehicles travelling on Greater Manchester’s roads. However, the additional funding needed that would support businesses to make their fleets less polluting has not been confirmed.
Greater Manchester Green City-region lead, Councillor Andrew Western, said:
I’m looking forward to seeing the detail behind the Environment Bill announcement, particularly on strengthening local council’s powers to deal with air pollution.
“But we need major funding from government now to address what is a very serious air quality problem on many local roads across our region.
“We’re committed to improving the air we all breathe as quickly as possible and we have ambitious proposals that we want to move forward with. It’s harming our health and bad for our economy. “But we need to ensure that those local businesses most affected by our Clean Air Zone proposals have the financial support they need to move to cleaner vehicles.
“We’re playing our part. We’ve submitted extensive further evidence to the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit on our funding ask to support local businesses.
“But, nine months after we submitted our Clean Air Plan outline business case, we still have no commitment to clean vehicle funds and, crucially, still need final clarification on the legal criteria against which Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan would be assessed.
“This impasse cannot continue any longer. While Whitehall keeps us waiting, people across our region will continue to breathe in the dirty air which we know is linked to a staggering number of health conditions – including heart disease, strokes and cancer – and even early deaths.”
Currently, the only powers local authorities have to tackle air pollution is the ability to fine drivers £20 for idling their engines, and refusing the switch them off at the request of an enforcement officer.