Tyneside councils reveal final clean air plans

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils have revealed their final plans to clean up Tyneside’s air pollution, exempting cars from their new Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

The three Tyneside councils have proposed a smaller charging CAZ in central Newcastle which will focus on targeting buses, coaches, HGVs, vans and taxis, along with a range of supporting measures.

Private cars won’t ‘initially’ be subject to the charge, although this may later change, the councils added, saying the new proposals ‘will improve our air quality as quickly’ as other options.

The councils were forced to scale back their original plans to introduce a larger CAZ and toll bridges after thousands of people objected to the proposals in a public consultation.

Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality, said: ‘Simply charging everyone for driving into Newcastle city centre or over our bridges isn’t going to clean up air quality on its own.

‘That’s why we’ve developed a package of measures to address many of the issues the public and businesses raised with us during our first consultation.’

Millennium Bridge, Newcastle.

If agreed by councillors later this month, the final package of measures will see a Class C CAZ introduced in Newcastle city centre by 2021 – covering a smaller area than the previously suggested CAZ, which included Gateshead, Gosforth and Wallsend.

Non-compliant HGVs, buses and coaches will be charged £50 a day to enter the CAZ, while taxis and vans will have to pay £12.

The councils will also seek changes to the local road network, place lane restrictions on the Tyne Bridge and Central Motorway and introduce ‘new delivery’ hubs for smaller goods vehicles outside the CAZ.

Residents will be helped to adjust to the CAZ through measures such as grants to upgrade vehicles, a grace period when the CAZ kicks in, and exemptions for certain vehicles.

The councils will not consider charging private cars until there are ‘credible alternatives’ in place to driving around Newcastle, such as improved walking and cycling infrastructure and cheaper, more reliable public transport, they said.

However, they admitted they may consider extending the CAZ to private cars in the future.

Cllr Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said: ‘We may need to look again at private cars in the future which will require further consultation, but we believe our proposals should – if the supporting measures are funded adequately by government – bring our air quality to legal levels and protect the health of our population.’

The three councils came up with their clean air plans after they were ordered by the government to cut Tyneside’s air pollution as quickly as possible.

The councils will now put their new proposals to a six-week public consultation before submitting their final plans to government by the end of this year.

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