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Andy Burnham responds after petition against Clean Air Zone charge gets over 16,000 signatures

The Mayor of Greater Manchester said he "owed everyone who has signed it the courtesy of a reply," to explain "where we go from here."

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 3rd January 2022

Andy Burnham has spoken out in response to a petition that’s amassed over 16,000 signatures in opposition to the upcoming Clean Air Zone charge.

In case you haven’t noticed, signs informing members of the public that the controversial scheme will begin to take effect from 30 May 2022 have been going up across the region over the last couple of months, with the roadside cameras to enforce the new policy across said to be being installed later on this year.

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Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used enforce any non-payment of daily charges that will come with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone is said to be “designed to protect everyone’s health by bringing harmful nitrogen dioxide air pollution at the roadside within legal limits as soon as possible.”

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While private cars, motorbikes, and mopeds won’t be affected, some vehicles that do not meet emissions standards – known as ‘non-compliant vehicles’ – will be charged to drive in the Clean Air Zone, with charges ranging from £7.50 for taxis and private hire vehicles, and £10 for vans and minibuses, all the way through to £60 for buses, coaches, and HGVs.

Daily charges will also occur for campervans and motorhomes too, depending on the tax class of the vehicle.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone will take effect from 30 May 2022 / Credit: Clean Air GM

As much of the region has started to become more aware of the scheme since signs have gone up, and have begun to learn of the charges involved, this has thus prompted much critique and generated widespread conversation on how local businesses will be affected.

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It has also resulted in a petition being set up in opposition to the scheme, which has since seen over 16,000 people and counted put their names to it.

The petition is aiming to “stop [the scheme] in its tracks”.

“Can you remember being asked by [Andy Burnham] or anyone in Greater Manchester if you wanted this? We were not. What sort of democracy is that? We need to stop this in its tracks,” the person who set up the petition exclaimed – and it has seen the Mayor of Greater Manchester himself respond on Twitter yesterday evening.

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Mr Burnham said he “thought I owed everyone who has signed it the courtesy of a reply,” to explain “where we go from here.”

He said in his response on Twitter: “Calling this ‘Andy Burnham’s Clean Air Charge’ implies two things: (1) that I instigated it; (2) that I have the legal power to stop it [but] neither is true as the Government initiated the process which led to this and only they have the power to stop it or delay it.

“This said, even the Government would struggle to scrap it.

“In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled: a) it had broken the law by failing to protect people from polluted air (b) urgent action must be taken. This led to the Government placing legal instructions on local councils [and] as a result, all 10 GM councils were directed to reduce air pollution by 2024.

“This is because analysis has shown all 10 GM boroughs have places where air pollution breaches legal limits.

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“The Government’s direction sets a Category C zone as the default solution.

“One criticism of the GM scheme is its size. It’s true this is a local decision. In effect, our councils had little choice. The alternative – a patchwork of local zones across 10 boroughs – would be unworkable [as] boundaries would constantly change as pollution was transferred.

“While the decision rests with our councils, I was involved in all the discussions and together we agreed our best approach was to: exclude cars; accept a wide zone; and fight for financial support to help people change vehicles.

“After all, we’ll all benefit from cleaner air.”

The Mayor continued his statement in response on Twitter, before concluding that: “I believe the right way to go from here is for GM to fight as one for changes to the scheme to protect jobs and businesses.

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“We will publish our proposals shortly as part of a GM campaign.

“We hope everyone who has signed this petition will feel able to get behind it.”

You can find out more about the Clean Air Zone charges for different vehicles, and the financial support on offer here.

Featured Image – Sky News | Geograph (David Dixon)