Wigan councillors give green light for clean air zone in Greater Manchester

Plans to charge drivers whose vehicles do not meet emission standards have been backed by Wigan’s councillors, as they rubber-stamped the scheme.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 4:55 am

A clean air zone is due to come into effect across Greater Manchester next year following the approval of local authorities.

Taxis, buses, vans and lorries which do not meet emission standards would pay a daily charge to drive on any roads within the region, except for motorways.

Members of Wigan Council approved the plan at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

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The clean air zone aims to reduce pollution

Council leader David Molyneux said: “This is not a congestion charge. The aim of the game is to improve air quality. The sooner it comes in, the better.”

There will be funding available to help businesses upgrade their vehicles, as well as the option to retrofit vehicles to make them compliant.

Julie Middlehurst, the council’s regulatory services manager, said it was anticipated that this funding, which comes from the Government, would be available from November.

All 10 authorities in Greater Manchester have been instructed by the Government to introduce a clean air zone to improve air quality and tackle the level of pollution.

A report prepared for the cabinet meeting states road transport is responsible for around 80 per cent of nitrogen dioxide at the roadside in Greater Manchester, with diesel vehicles as the largest source.

This pollution can contribute to cardiovascular or respiratory disease and may reduce life expectancy.

The clean air zone would operate 24 hours a day and follows the administrative boundary of Greater Manchester.

The daily charge will be £7.50 per day – from midnight to midnight – for taxis and hackney carriages, £10 for minibuses and LGVs, and £60 for buses, coaches and HGVs.

It is expected to begin on May 30, 2022 for buses, hackney carriages, private hire vehicles and HGVs, and on June 1, 2023 for LGVs, minibuses and coaches. Certain hackney carriages and private licence vehicles will be exempt until June 1, 2023.

The report states: “A temporary exemption will be in place for all GM-licensed hackney carriages and private hire vehicles until May 31, 2023. This is to provide the GM taxi trade with more time to recover from the effects of Covid-19 and support their ability to invest in upgrades to compliant alternatives before a charge is applied.”

The new rules do not apply to ordinary motorists, just the categories mentioned.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers will be automatically suspended if they do not sign up for regular checks on their criminal record, according to new rules at Wigan Council.

Private hire and hackney carriage drivers who do not subscribe to the DBS Update Service by December 1 will be suspended until they have signed up.

Drivers who do sign up for the service will be checked for criminal convictions and barring information on a weekly basis with a regular search of the system.

The Disclosure and Barring Service would search the system regularly to see if any relevant new information has been received about a cabby and alert the council if it is required to check whether the driver is a ‘fit and proper person’.

The service removes the requirement for new DBS certificates, reduces the administrative burden and mitigates potential delays in relicensing drivers.

It comes as Wigan Council brings its rules up to date with the Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards published by the Department for Transport.

But Labour councillor John Vickers spoke of the ‘hypocrisy’ of asking drivers to have regular DBS checks when some councillors have not had any themselves.

Under the new rules, all licensed drivers will have to provide evidence of their continuous registration with the DBS Update Service every six months.

Further proposals will be considered later this year as part of the Greater Manchester Minimum Licensing Standards which are set to be implemented.

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