Mayor calls for five-year delay in compliance for Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone

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Vehicles would not be charged in a Clean Air Zone if the government delays the deadline to meet legal limits on air pollution, Andy Burnham has said.

The Greater Manchester mayor has called on the government to extend the deadline given to councils to be compliant with air quality standards to 2027.

He said compliance could be achieved by then without introducing charges.

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A Clean Air Zone would still come into effect in May, but non-compliant buses, lorries and taxis from outside of Greater Manchester would not face any fines.

Clean Air Zone signs have already been put up across WiganClean Air Zone signs have already been put up across Wigan
Clean Air Zone signs have already been put up across Wigan

Instead, owners of vehicles which are in breach of the Clean Air Zone would be contacted and advised on how to access funding for retrofitting or upgrading.

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It comes after Boris Johnson said the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone is "completely unworkable" at Prime Minister’s Questions today (February 2).

But speaking at a press conference, Mr Burnham said it is the government’s legal direction requiring compliance by 2024 which has now become "unworkable".

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Andy BurnhamAndy Burnham
Andy Burnham

He said: “The more time the government is prepared to allow, the greater the level of protection that can be provided to jobs and businesses in Greater Manchester and the less punitive the measures will need to be.”

The Labour mayor called on the government to set a new date for compliance, saying that a charging scheme would not be required if the deadline is 2027.

A similar approach could be taken if the government’s legal direction is delayed until 2026 – but Burnham said he could not ruled out charges.

But if the deadline is only extended to 2025, charges may be introduced for non-compliant buses, lorries and taxis licensed outside of Greater Manchester with a smaller charging scheme introduced for vans and locally licensed taxis.

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The mayor also said that all private use leisure vehicles, such as motorhomes, campervans and horseboxes as well as cars, motorbikes and mopeds should be permanently exempted from the Clean Air Zone regardless of an extension.

The call to government comes after the metro mayor commissioned research into the second hand vehicle market which found a big rise in the price of vans.

Due to supply chain issues, he said, Greater Manchester would not achieve compliance by 2024, but businesses would be hit with unavoidable charges.

He said: “Throwing money at it is not going to solve it. It was clear to us in January that a delay would be the only thing that would allow the redesign of the scheme and a different way of achieving compliance.”

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The environment secretary is expected to make an announcement about the future of the Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester within the coming days.

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