Clean air plan for Manchester but Burnham rules out charges for private vehicles

Greater Manchester plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) which will penalise drivers of the most polluting vehicles, Mayor Andy Burnham has confirmed.

The proposed CAZ would deter vehicles such as HGVs, LGVs, buses and taxis from using the roads if they don’t comply with NO2 emissions standards, however, Burnham also confirmed that the CAZ would not apply to private cars registered in Greater Manchester as 80% are already compliant.

‘We believe that restrictions on the remaining 20% would neither be progressive nor proportionate,’ he said.

Announcing the proposal on Monday, Burnham stressed that the CAZ will not act as a congestion charge, a proposal which was rejected by Greater Manchester voters in 2008.

‘This is not a charge to use the roads – a congestion charge – but a penalty scheme for non-compliant vehicles,’ he said.

‘People with a compliant vehicle would have no fine to pay.’

The proposals have been criticised by environmental campaigners who say that it will only encourage people to switch to cleaner vehicles instead of reducing the overall number of cars on the roads.

Chief executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh told AirQualityNews.com that the proposal was ‘disappointing’.

‘It is disappointing that Manchester’s plans will allow the worst offenders – private cars – to continue polluting the city’s air, including the oldest and most toxic vehicles so long as they are registered locally,’ she said.

‘At the same time, the clean air zone will penalise buses, which are the simplest and most cost-effective answer to the air quality problem.’

‘A fully loaded double-decker bus can take 75 cars off the road, and the latest generation of clean buses are cleaner than most modern diesel cars despite having 15 to 20 times the capacity.

‘We urgently need action to encourage people out of their cars and to support more efficient and reliable local public transport. This is the only way we will tackle our air pollution crisis.’

The government’s NO2 plan has obligated councils like Greater Manchester to draw up plans to combat illegal exceedances of the legal NO2 level.

Greater Manchester previously stated that it would aim to submit an Outline Business Case (OBC), which will summarise the region’s proposals to tackle the problem, to the government by 31 January 2019 after missing the initial end-of-2018 deadline.

However, GMCA has now admitted that they need to undertake further research into how the CAZ will affect small businesses and taxi firms means that the OBC will be further delayed.

The authority says this now means they will be unable to submit its Outline Business Case (OBC) to government by the agreed deadline of 31 January 2019.