Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone charges should be abandoned, Mayor Andy Burnham says

  • Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham speaks to Granada Reports presenter Lucy Meacock about removing the charge and what is next for the Clean Air Zone.

Greater Manchester's Clean Air Zone should no longer charge high emission vehicles who do not meet specifications, Mayor Andy Burnham has said.

The controversial scheme is due to be introduced across the city region in May in an attempt to reduce harmful air pollution.

Original plans stated that commercial and passenger vehicles deemed as 'most polluting' would have to pay a daily charge to travel, ranging from £60 for HGVs and coaches, to £7.50 for taxis.

But serious concerns have been raised about the Clean Air Zone, or CAZ, with the first few weeks of 2022 dominated by complaints.

Taxi drivers and small business owners say the additional charges created by the CAZ could kill their business, and have complained that they are not being offered enough assistance to buy new lower-emission vehicles.

Taxi drivers in Greater Manchester staged a go-slow protest on Thursday.

Now Mayor Andy Burnham has said he wants the CAZ to continue - but has asked the government to remove the 'punitive' charges.

Stating that he is "responding to the concerns people have raised", Burnham says he has written to Environment Secretary George Eustice to issue new directions.

In a statement he said The CAZ should continue to go ahead "but as a non-charging GM-wide Category B CAZ (including buses, HGVs and non-GM registered taxis)."

The Clean Air Zone will begin in May.

He added: "This will allow people time to adjust and, instead of fines, people will be contacted to advise to where they can find support."

He also said: "All private-use leisure vehicles - such as motorhomes, camper-vans and horseboxes, as well as cars, motorbikes and mopeds - [should be] permanently exempted from the CAZ."

Blaming Prime Minister Boris Johnson for requiring the scheme and placing "a legal direction on each of our ten councils" to implement it, Burnham said it was the "government’s legal direction" that made the scheme "unworkable".

He said: "The current Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone (CAZ) was designed before the pandemic.

"It was based on a legal direction from the Government requiring action in all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs to clean up the air and compliance in as short a time as possible and by no later than by 2024.

"It is the nature of this Government direction, and the tight timetable, which has shaped the CAZ proposal, together with the Government’s requirement to use a charging CAZ as the default option.

"We have repeatedly raised concerns over a number of years about the level of funding being offered by the Government to help people upgrade vehicles.

"These concerns intensified last year when the effects of the pandemic became clear."

ITV Granada Reports has contacted DEFRA for a statement.

Andy Burnham says he is "responding to the concerns people have raised" over the proposed CAZ.