Clean Air Zone likely to get a major overhaul, says GM Mayor

Andy Burnham has promised Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone will look ‘substantially different’ later this year – but he cannot rule out charges yet.

By Joseph Timan
Saturday, 5th February 2022, 8:05 am
Updated Saturday, 5th February 2022, 8:06 am

The controversial scheme which was due to come into force in May has been put on hold, allowing for the plan to cut air pollution to be redesigned by July.

It comes after the government agreed to delay the deadline by which councils in Greater Manchester must comply by legal standards on air quality to 2026.

The Labour mayor had asked for a delay until 2027, saying this could mean all charges would be scrapped – but he said the 2024 deadline was ‘unworkable’.

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GM Mayor Andy Burnham

Speaking at a press conference today (February 4), Burnham said there will still be a Clean Air Zone, but he is hoping to cut pollution without penalties.

He said: “We’re going to have to sit down with the government now. We’ve got six months or so to look at the data and agree a way forward, rather than it becoming a matter of party politics. That has got to be a much better way.”

Daily charges of £60 for non-compliant buses, coaches and lorries and £7.50 for taxis licensed outside of Greater Manchester were due to come in in May.

The delay to the scheme means these charges will not come in before July – but Burnham could not give any further guarantees about the new scheme.

On Wednesday (February 4), he said owners of non-compliant commercial vehicles would be contacted and advised about how to upgrade or retrofit.

But he said ‘additional measures’ may be needed if the deadline is delayed to 2026, and would require sufficient government funding to support businesses.

The mayor said the delay gives Greater Manchester some ‘breathing space’ to redesign the scheme with a ‘fairer’ plan expected in the middle of the year.

It comes after research into the vehicle market revealed a rise in the price of vans by up to 60 pc because of supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.

Because of this, Burnham said, many businesses would not have been able to afford to upgrade their vehicles and would have been hit by unavoidable fines.

He said: “Air pollution affects people’s health, but so does forcing people to the brink of bankruptcy. That’s the balance that we’re having to strike. We’re still trying to get it right. We want to clean up the air as quickly as we can, but we want to do it in a way that doesn’t threaten people’s jobs or businesses.”

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