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Greater Manchester leaders have agreed and published a new plan for a non-charging Clean Air Zone for the city-region.
GMCA has published its evidence for supporting an investment-led Clean Air Plan to reduce roadside nitrogen dioxide air pollution, which, unlike the now scrapped earlier iteration of the zone, would not impose a daily charge on non-compliant commercial vehicles.
The publication of the plan follows ongoing discussion with Westminster over the future of the Clean Air Zone, and how it can be implemented with consideration to the rising cost-of-living and economic recovery of many businesses following the Covid-19 pandemic. Global supply challenges severely restricting the availability of cleaner replacement vehicles for businesses wishing to comply with the scheme was also a key reason previous plans, due to come into force earlier this year, were shelved.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said:
“The Case for a New Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan outlines how Greater Manchester would meet air quality legal limits in a way which is fair to local people and businesses and does not create the risk of financial hardship.
“Our city is still recovering from the pandemic and we don’t want the Government to level-down our city-centre with their proposals to charge businesses from across Greater Manchester who have to travel through or work within the proposed charging area.
“Even a small charging Clean Air Zone would result in a considerable financial burden for the many businesses moving products and people through Manchester city centre, providing a significant setback in economic recovery from the impact of the pandemic, and during a cost-of-living crisis.
“The government wants us to charge Greater Manchester businesses at a time when they can least afford it.”
In a letter earlier this month, Environment Secretary George Eustice wrote the the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Councillor Andrew Western, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) portfolio lead for Clean Air, suggesting a smaller charging area covering only Manchester City Centre could be acceptable. The implementation of a charging Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester, and other UK cities with poor air quality including Birmingham and Bath, was mandated in 2019 by the then-Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey to bring NO2 pollution below legal limits by 2026.
Greater Manchester’s Air Quality Administration Committee will meet on 1st July to approve the draft plan, which will also be submitted to government the same day, before agreeing to move forward with developing support schemes with businesses and community groups to get more cleaner vehicles on the roads. Also included in plans are proposals to impose stricter regulations on private hire taxis that would require all trips booked in the city-region to have drivers and vehicles registered in Greater Manchester.
Cllr Andrew Western, GMCA portfolio lead for Clean Air, said:
“The health impact of dirty air is a primary concern for Greater Manchester, and we remain determined to tackle it in a way which does not create financial hardship for local people.
“We have been listening to the views of business?leaders and, given the poor economic outlook for the UK as a whole and Greater Manchester – coupled with increasing evidence of the harm poor air quality causes – this is a delicate balance.
“Based on the evidence, including the impact that a charging Clean Air Zone would have on their ability to make a living, and the risk to jobs and livelihoods, we have had the opportunity to fundamentally change the nature of the Clean Air scheme which we now feel is fit for purpose and fair to the people of our city-region.
“We will now move into a period of more intensive engagement with business and the community to bring together the detailed policy of the new Clean Air Plan.”