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Leaders in Greater Manchester ask the government for an ‘urgent review’ of the Clean Air Zone

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) said there is "emerging evidence" for a review into the availability and affordability of cleaner vehicles.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 14th January 2022

Leaders and transport bosses in Greater Manchester are to ask the government for an “urgent review” of the Clean Air Zone policy that’s due to be implemented across the city-region from May 2022.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) issued a statement on Wednesday evening, 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.

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In the statement, Eamonn Boylan – the Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Combined Authority – said that they are 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 says more work is needed to understand whether this could create significant financial hardship for commercial vehicle users.

A report to the Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee next Thursday (20 January) will tackle the supply chain concerns and the financial implications, as well as what this means for Greater Manchester local authorities, and the scheme’s impact on their ability to comply on time with a legal direction from government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

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GMCA confirmed that Greater Manchester secured the £120 million in government funding towards upgrading non-compliant commercial vehicles, but that the government did not agree to provide “additional hardship funding”.

The authority said that since funding support mechanisms for vehicle upgrades were first identified, the global pandemic and associated international trade issues have “compounded supply chain shortages in the commercial vehicle market”, which has resulted in “dramatic price increases” of up to 60% at a time when many are already dealing with hikes in fuel prices and the cost of living.

This is why leaders will seek the government’s permission to put the second phase of Clean Air Zone funding on hold until the review of the policy is complete.

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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.

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The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone is said to be “designed to protect everyone’s health” / Credit: Twitter (@FSBManchester)

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.

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

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Some environmentalists, however, believe the scheme does not go far enough.

Speaking on the authority seeking the government’s permission for review, Andy Burnham – Mayor of Greater Manchester – said in a statement yesterday: “Everyone in Greater Manchester deserves to breathe clean air, but we have always said this cannot be at the expense of those who cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles to make them compliant in this timeframe.

“Clean air can only be achieved by the right package of financial support to help people upgrade their vehicles, and this latest evidence highlights significant challenges in this area. We are worried about what this could mean for those businesses and individuals impacted, and their ability to upgrade as well as our ability to deliver the clean air plan.

“I want to reassure all those people who have been in touch that we are listening to you, and we will make sure your voices are heard.”

He added: “We will work with Ministers and officials to share our findings, but these are matters out of our control.

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“We can’t solve this in Greater Manchester – only government can.”

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

Featured Image & Thumbnail – Geograph (David Dixon)