Greater Manchester's Clean Air Zone - cutting pollution but at what cost?

ITV Granada Reports' correspondent Mel Barham reports on Greater Manchester's Clean Air Zone.

More than 33,000 people have signed a petition against the proposed introduction of a controversial Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester.

The aim of the plans is to drastically cut pollution by forcing drivers of certain vehicles to pay to use on some of the region's roads. 

The CAZ will cover all 10 boroughs - Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

But is it a solution to pollution or another blow to businesses after a challenging two years?

The plans have seen major opposition from people across the region who face having to pay the charge - but some environmentalists believe it does not go far enough.

For Mark Atherton, who owns an ice cream van business in Tameside, the scheme will cost him £10-a-day for each of his vans, which equates to £25,000 a year.

He would qualify for a 5 thousand pound grant but his vans are difficult to retrofit, and to buy a new compliant vehicle would cost around £70,000 - money they just don't have.

Mark told ITV Granada Reports: "We're definitely going to go out of business. I'm very upset, very emotional about the whole procedure really because after all these years trading and going through Covid, we've got to close the business."

But it is not just businesses that will be affected by the Clean Air Zone charges.

Mel Morris uses a horse box to transport her horses to the local riding school and to shows

She says to buy a new compliant vehicle would be astronomical and most owners will simply have to pay the charge.

For Mel, who lives on the outskirts of the zone, she could go the long way round - but she says that would be worse for the environment.

She told ITV Granada Reports: "Most of the horse box drivers that I know simply can't afford to upgrade their horse box so the air quality will not be changed at all.

"The only thing that will be changed is the clean air zone will make a lot of money out of it because people will jsut have to pay the cost because it costs simply too much money to upgrade their horse boxes."

Meanwhile, Alan Kibble too is facing the prospect of losing the hobby he loves.

Four years ago he saved up to buy this motorhome to enjoy in his retirement, but now every time it leaves his drive, he is set to pay a £10 charge.

He said: "It makes me feel very sad. It's something you work all your life and you look forward to doing something like a bit of a dream.

"We all can't afford to go out and buy £100,000 motorhomes so we bought what we thought was the right buy at the time.

"It's just another cost put on top of us and something got to give. In our circumstances it looks like motorhome will have to go."

Manchester's mayor and the ten Greater Manchester councils insist they are legally obligated by the government to introduce the scheme.

With air pollution levels above legal limits, environmentalists agree with the plans.

Pete Abel, Friends of the Earth, told ITV Granada Reports: "Typically in Greater Manchester, between 70% and 80% of air pollution is caused by vehicles and about 70% of that comes from private cars.

"For us, this scheme whilst it's welcome it doesn't actually go far enough."

Youth MP and Climate activist Emma Greenwood said: "There's definitely ways the scheme could be become more fair but inevitably something needs to happen.

"Sacrifices are going to have to be made. We can't make a safe planet or environment with this 'business as usual' framework that's what's caused the issues in the first place.

"It's only going to get worse from here if we don't take action otherwise there's a real threat that people of my generation and generations yet to come that we will be really disadvantaged by this."

With concerns over the financial support available and supply chains for new vehicles, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and council leaders say they will be reviewing the scheme this week.

Clean air zone - solution to pollution or blow to businesses? Credit: ITV News