Following a public consultation that took place in late 2020, Greater Manchester’s ten local authority areas have agreed on a joint clean air plan for the region.
The plan aims to substantially reduce vehicle-related air pollution and bring N02 levels down to within legal limits as soon as possible.
A range of measures have been proposed, including a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and more than £120m in Government funding for clean vehicles.
Having just been approved, the CAZ is expected to be introduced in May 2022.
A daily charge will be applied to commercial vehicles such as vans, buses, taxis, minibuses, coaches and HGVs that fail to meet emissions standards. Private cars, motorcycles and mopeds are to be excluded.
The CAZ boundary is proposed to follow the administrative boundary of Greater Manchester as closely as possible. Clear signage will direct drivers who do not wish to enter the zone towards alternative routes. The majority of roads within the region will fall under the CAZ rules, with the Highways England-managed Strategic Road Network of motorways and major trunk roads excepted.
However, upon examination of the proposals, it was noted that one potential consequence might have actually exacerbated an existing problem at the county’s eastern border.
Traffic crossing the Pennines via the A628 Woodhead Pass or A57 Snake Pass is funnelled through the area around the High Peak town of Glossop, a longstanding cause of concern.
At present, the villages of Mottram-In-Longdendale, Hollingworth and Tintwistle are frequently the subject of considerable delay as queues of vehicles make their way along narrow, single-carriageway roads.
It had been feared that HGVs might try to avoid the CAZ by using this already heavily congested route instead of the M62 motorway to the north.
Following a Highways England assessment of the potential impacts, including air quality on other roads, safety impacts, carbon impacts and other operational and network issues, the Government has agreed to allow an extension to the CAZ to include the areas in question.
This change to the rules was brought about following a successful cross-party collaboration across borough boundaries. High Peak MP Robert Largan, a member of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, worked on the problem with Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds, along with local authorities and other public bodies.
Explaining the situation to constituents, Mr Largan called the extension good news for the area, and said: ‘The Clean Air Zone does not include motorways and trunk roads, which could have created a bizarre incentive for HGVs to travel through Tintwistle in order to avoid paying any charge.
‘Instead of reducing Tintwistle’s traffic problem, it would have made things even worse. This would have been awful for our whole area.
‘However, I have been working on a cross-party basis with Tameside Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and Stalybridge & Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds to rectify this problem, including holding a special meeting with the Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.
‘I am very pleased to report that, following this work, it has been agreed that all the roads into Mottram and Hollingworth will be included in the Clean Air Zone. This is the only exception to the general clean air zone rules anywhere in the country.
‘Instead of a very bad outcome, we now have a good one, which should lead to fewer HGVs driving through either Glossop or Tintwistle. There will now be a very clear incentive for older HGVs to travel via the M62 rather than the Woodhead Pass or the Snake Pass.’
Cllr Brenda Warrington, executive leader of Tameside Council added: ‘I’m delighted that the A628 and A57 passing through Hollingworth and Mottram will now be included in the Clean Air Zone to help protect all of our residents from the harmful effects of pollution.’
Talking about traffic in the area, she added: ‘These roads have historically been the most polluted in Greater Manchester and this is probably the most significant step to improving public health in Longdendale in decades. We now eagerly await the progression of the long-awaited Mottram Bypass, which will take traffic on the A57 away from our villages, reducing congestion and further improving air quality.’
Work is ongoing to look at how smaller businesses can be helped to make the transition during a twelve month period of grace.
Photo by Mangopear creative