Charges for Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone to be scrapped under revised plan

  • Report from Granada Reports correspondent Tim Scott

Controversial plans to charge drivers of polluting vehicles as part of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone will be scrapped, under new plans announced by leaders.

Charges, ranging from £7.50 to £60, had been planned for most motorists entering one of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs from May.

It was supposed to encourage owners to buy new, greener vehicles or retrofit old ones, but the proposals were delayed in February after concerns meeting pollution targets too soon could put many local firms out of business.

Taxi drivers and small business owners said the additional charges created by the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) would destroy their businesses, and complained they were not being offered enough assistance to buy new lower-emission vehicles.

The proposed Clean Air Zone area would cover all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs. Credit: GM Clean Air Zone

Following the concerns, and talks between Burnham and the government, it was later agreed to move the deadline set for Greater Manchester to lower air pollution below legal limits by two years to 2026.

Now Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham announced that most of the charges will be scrapped.

Instead under the new proposals, £120 million of government money will be used to help owners adapt or retrofit their vehicles.

The scheme remains under review, with seven weeks left for the city-region to agree a new proposal with the government.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday 13 May, Mr Burnham said: "We will not accept a charging Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester. If that is what the government wants, it will have to impose it on us."

He added: "We want a non-charging, Category B, Clean Air Zone, help the owners of those vehicles to change those vehicles, don't hit them with charges.

"Just put the investment in, the incentives to change so that we can clean up the air without threatening jobs or businesses.

"That can be a grant, it can be a loan, it can be help to retrofit that vehicle, so it doesn't mean you have to buy a new vehicle, some vehicles can have work done to make them compliant.

"It's a range of options and it's about supporting the owners of those vehicles to get the option that's right for them."

Mr Burnham, and Cllr Andrew Western, GMCA portfolio lead for Clean Air, have now written to the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, to set out the proposals.

It comes after Mr Burnham sent a letter to Boris Johnson accusing him of playing "dishonest politics" after the Prime Minister branded initial Clean Air Zone plans "thoughtless".

All nine Greater Manchester Labour leaders urged Mr Johnson to make the CAZ a "non-charging zone for any vehicles".

However, writing back eight weeks later, the Prime Minister did not rule out a charging scheme.

Green campaigners say that regardless of how the clean air zone is implemented, we should be doing far more to curb pollution.

Geraldine Goggins, a Green Party councillor on Trafford Council, said: "It looks a little bit like more of the same, that this plan isn't going to be ambitious, and council's like Trafford could be moving so much faster on making it safe to walk and cycle places, and use alternative ways to get around our city, like vehicle sharing, or using electric cargo bikes."