Clean air zone charges are 'not a congestion charge', Wigan councillors are told

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Daily charges for the most polluting vans, buses and taxis which are due to be introduced next year are ‘not a congestion charge’ councillors have been told.

The Clean Air Zone which will affect all roads in Greater Manchester, except for motorways and other roads managed by Highways England, is expected to come into force in Spring 2022, a scrutiny committee in Wigan was told.

Vehicles which do not meet emission standards would pay a daily charge to travel in the zone – although private cars, motorbikes and mopeds are exempt.

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Buses, coaches and heavy good vehicles (HGVs) would pay £60 every day while taxis and private hire vehicles would pay a daily charge of £7.50.

It's due to come into force in spring 2022It's due to come into force in spring 2022
It's due to come into force in spring 2022

Light goods vehicles such as vans and minibuses would also have to pay a daily charge of £10, but would benefit from a temporary exemption until 2023.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting in Wigan, regulatory services manager Julie Middlehurst said the final ‘Clean Air Plan’ will be considered in the summer before the zone comes into force next year.

But she assured councillors that the clean air zone is not a congestion charge.

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She said: “The primary objective of a clean air zone is to encourage everyone to shift to a compliant vehicle and thereby have no need to pay the daily charge.

“That’s why the funding is primarily there to support that shift. Obviously, once we get to a level where we meet the legal permitted limits for NO2, we would look to take out the clean air zone. So it isn’t an ongoing charge.

“It isn’t about making money. We don’t want to make money, we want to get people into cleaner vehicles so that there is no need for anybody to pay a daily charge.”

Greater Manchester is asking for more than £150m of government funding to help residents, businesses and organisations prepare for the clean air zone, including a £10m hardship fund to support those most impacted by the plans.

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The government has already committed £41m of funding towards the total sum requested by Greater Manchester and further funding is anticipated.

Paul Barton, director of environment at Wigan council, added: “I just want to really reemphasise that the clean air zone is definitely not a congestion charge.

“A congestion charge applies to any vehicle entering that zone. The clear air zone only applies to non-compliant vehicles and does not apply to domestic vehicles as such.

“If you operate and HGV and it is air quality compliant, Euro 6 engined, then you will not be subject to the charge. In a congestion charge you would be.

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“So there’s a distinct difference here. There’s an incentive to actually get air quality compliant. With a congestion charge the incentive is don’t go into that area.”

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