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Government ‘ducking its responsibilities’ on clean air, says Andy Burnham

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said the government is ‘ducking its responsibilities’ on clean air, and has urged them to release funding for the region’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA) plan includes the largest proposed CAZ in the UK which would span 10 local authority areas as well as a vehicle upgrade programme and 600 new electric vehicle charging points.

HGVs, LGVs, buses and taxis would be charged to enter the CAZ if they don’t meet nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions standards. Private cars would not be charged.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) gave the authority until the end of 2019 to send them its final plans but GMCA says it is refusing to submit until they have clarification on the legalities of the plan as well as a firm commitment to funding packages for Manchester businesses upgrade to cleaner vehicles.

The combined authority has asked for £116m to implement the full plan.

Andy Burnham said: ‘We are serious about tackling air pollution across our region and, alongside the government, we recognise it is the most pressing environmental public health issue facing the country today.

‘However, we can’t get on with our plans without a firm commitment about the vital financial support that will help businesses across Greater Manchester upgrade to cleaner vehicles, to avoid the CAZ daily charge,’ he added.

‘The government has told councils to develop ambitious plans to tackle air quality. Our plan is ambitious but it needs a multi-million-pound financial support package to help local businesses, and requires the government to not duck from its responsibilities.

‘It needs to commit the funds to delivering this vital work and supporting companies across the region to move towards a more sustainable future.’

Cllr Andrew Western, Greater Manchester Green City-region lead added that it is ‘scandalous’ that businesses have been ‘left in the dark’ due to the impasse between Defra and the GMCA.

‘Poor air quality damages the health of people living, working and travelling in Greater Manchester and early exposure to polluted air can cause a lifetime of ill-health.’

Air Quality News has asked Defra to respond.

So far this year, several councils have faced CAZ hold-ups or delays.

Yesterday, Bristol City Council said that the government has failed to give them direction on their CAZ plans, which has resulted in another delay.

Last month, Birmingham City Council admitted that their CAZ, which was due to go live in July, could be delayed past the summer due to the government’s botched introduction of a vehicle checking tool.

Photo Credit – GMCA

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