New plans for Clean Air Zones in Greater Manchester could cause huge damage to borough firms, a Wigan businesswoman has claimed.
The measures, set out by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), are likely to include charges for older diesel vehicles, but could also combine other penalties in a bid to reduce pollution.
An overview of the plan released by TfGM suggests this could also mean increased parking charges at certain times of the day to reduce peak-hour car travel, and even the introduction of a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL), which will tax car parking spaces owned by businesses.
The plans, if approved by the Government, would come into force in 2020.
Wigan currently has over a dozen stretches of road that will have concentrations of NO2 which will either be over the EU statutory limit or in danger of exceeding it by 2021.
Dawan Kenyon runs RADCat, a Westwood Park-based dangerous goods safety consultancy, who voiced concerns for the plan’s impact on businesses, especially those based near the town centre.
She said: “This plan could cost us a huge amount of money and custom if it goes ahead, because our meetings with clients take place in the town centre, where these penalties are undoubtedly going to be enforced.
“We will have a duty to have to inform customers of this charge prior to them coming to the centre, and this will likely lead to them seeking out businesses that are in unaffected areas.
“Our company also has a training facility where we regularly host around 20 people per session at peak hours, so if there is going to be a charge on business parking spaces, then we will have to make that up, which is simply not viable.
“Businesses do understand the concept of pollution and of course in my area of work (health and safety) there are certain standards that rely heavily on recycling, reusing and other environmentally friendly aspects they have adopted.
“However, this is not simply a case of making some changes in behaviour and habit, this is a financial change and one that could have a massive detrimental effect.”
Wigan Council insists proper consultation was made with businesses in the borough. Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health, said: “Work is still under way to develop the Clean Air plan and no decision has been taken yet on the final package of measures to clean up Greater Manchester’s air. We’re working with partners to develop the best options and have been consulting with local businesses.
“There will also be an opportunity for the public to have their say before any final decisions. We all need to do our bit to help reduce harmful levels of air pollution by driving less and walking or cycling more.
“As a council we are doing what we can to try to reduce the impact by investing in cycling and walking infrastructure but we need everyone to make small changes too.”