It has now been confirmed that Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone plan has been referred back to the government for review over concerns it will cause “real hardship” for some residents in the region.
It comes after all 10 Greater Manchester councils met to discuss the plan yesterday.
The idea that the plan would be referred back to the government was already on the cards after Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) issued a statement on the matter last week, with bosses explaining that there is a “fundamental concern” that certain global and national factors may “impact on the ability” of local businesses and individuals to upgrade their vehicles, and whether the current support package agreed with government of £120 million would be sufficient.
The authority said that “emerging evidence” from businesses and trade has highlighted significant challenges related to supply chain issues and inflation.
They also say that more money is needed for taxis, vans, minibuses, and coaches.
In the statement, Eamonn Boylan – the Chief Executive of GMCA – said that they would be seeking approval from the secretary of state for an “urgent” review into the launch of the Clean Air Zone to “identify how a revised policy can be agreed to deal with the supply issues and local businesses’ ability to comply with the plan”.
GMCA believes more work is needed to understand whether this could create significant financial hardship for commercial vehicle users.
Mayor Andy Burnham said he is “pleased” that the councils voted for the plan’s referral.
Taking to Twitter to share the news and comment on the referral confirmation, Mr Burnham said: “I am pleased that Greater Manchester councils have just voted to refer the Clean Air Zone back to the government [as] GM has tried in good faith to make the government’s legal direction work.
“However, changes in the vehicle market mean it is impossible to proceed on the current basis without causing real hardship to some of our residents.
“We remain committed to tackling illegal levels of air pollution in GM as soon as possible.
“This decision opens up the space for urgent, joint discussions with the government about potential changes to make the scheme fair for everyone [and] I am listening to people’s concerns and will always stand up for GM.
“I am not the final decision-maker but will do everything I can, working with government, to get this to the right place.
“I know it’s difficult but bear with us and I will keep you posted on progress.”
What is the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone?
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.
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.”
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.
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 critique and generated widespread conversation on how local businesses will be affected.
It has also resulted in a petition being set up in opposition to the scheme, which has since seen over 38,000 people and counting put their names to it and Mayor Andy Burnham respond.
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.
Some environmentalists, however, believe the scheme does not go far enough.
You can find out more about the Clean Air Zone charges for different vehicles, and the financial support on offer here.
Featured Image – Wikimedia Commons