Vans, buses and taxis face charges in clean air zone plans

Date published: 08 January 2019

Drivers of the most polluting vehicles could soon be charged in Greater Manchester as authority bosses reveal plans to tackle the city region’s potentially lethal levels of pollution.

Local authorities have been tasked by central government with improving air quality to within legal limits by 2021 – with more than 1,200 deaths a year linked to harmful nitrogen dioxide levels.

As part of wide-ranging housing, jobs and transport plans announced on Monday, regional mayor Andy Burnham said the combined authority is ‘minded to support’ the introduction of a Greater Manchester-wide clean air zone.

That would see drivers of non-environmentally compliant buses, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs and vans facing costs.

The prices of any penalties or charges remain unclear, although in London vans are charged £12.50 a day and HGVS £100 under a similar scheme.

There will not be charges for individual motorists with 80 per cent of vehicles already meeting green guidelines.

And calls will also be made to central government for financial support for scrappage or upgrade schemes, so that businesses and the self-employed will not be left out of pocket.

Local authorities will not be looking to the charges as a revenue stream, Mr Burnham added, distancing the plans from a congestion charge system.

Councillor Alex Ganotis, leader of Stockport Council and lead on the clean air plan, said: “Poor air quality is a health issue. It’s one of the biggest public health issues facing this country.

“It affects some of our poorest communities the most and some of our most vulnerable residents.

“This is an issue about fairness, equality and inclusion. If we do not do this, we are letting down some of our poorest residents.”

With local authorities legally responsible for air quality levels and more than 150 sites across the city-region identified as exceeding annual limits for nitrogen dioxide, town hall leaders have said Highways England must also play its part in relation to the motorways across the conurbation.

Financial help will be requested from central government to help introduce schemes to aid drivers of the most polluting vehicles to upgrade.

Mr Burnham said: “We’re really conscious that we’re not wanting to expose Greater Manchester businesses and self-employed people to costs they can’t afford.

“Our message back to the government will be we’re prepared to be as quick as we can to clean up the air, but you need to do that with us in a partnership and not put it all on us.

“We will be asking for financial schemes to help people make the shift from older, more polluting vehicles.”

An update on the plans will be presented to a meeting of combined authority leaders this week with further work scheduled before a business case is formed later in 2019.

Councillor Ganotis added: “[A clean air zone] should seek to raise nothing in revenue because we want to get those polluting vehicles off the road.

“If people choose to pay a penalty and drive the polluting vehicle then it’s all a waste of time.

“What you would have then is a charging regime with no reduction in the use of vehicles and no help to those issues with air quality.

“This is completely different to congestion charging. We want to do it in a way that people are not hit.”

Other city-regions – such as Birmingham and Leeds – have indicated they will introduce similar plans while London already has air quality charging in place.

James Illingworth - Local Democracy Reporter

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