The government has backed plans to delay tolls on high-polluting vehicles in Newcastle city centre until 2023.
Council bosses announced in July that they were planning to put the long-awaited Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charges on hold until next year, but needed the approval of ministers to do so.
Civic centre officials have now confirmed that the latest proposal for the CAZ has been signed off, giving motorists and businesses until the end of January to get ready for the tolls of up to £50 per day.
The restrictions will mean that lorries, buses and coaches that do not comply with modern emissions standards will have to pay £50 per day to drive into the city centre.
Non-compliant vans and taxis will be charged £12.50 per day, but all private cars will be exempt.
While Newcastle and Gateshead councils are due to bring the CAZ into operation this November, drivers of any offending vehicles will only be issued a warning letter for the first few months – and given details of how to apply for a grant to help them upgrade to a cleaner model.
The tolls will then begin from 30 January 2023 for taxis, buses, coaches, and HGVs and from 17 July for vans and LGVs.
The extra time for van owners has been allowed because of rising costs and a national shortage of vehicles making it harder for people to buy a newer, less-polluting model in order to avoid the charges.
There have been concerns that imposing significant daily charges, particularly during a cost of living crisis, could cause severe hardship for poorer residents and small businesses in particular.
Almost £20m worth of grant funding to help vehicle owners replace their older, high-polluting models has been set aside – but there is still no confirmation of when applications will open or when that money, which will be dispensed in payments worth up to £20,000 per vehicle, will be paid out.
A council website set up for the CAZ states that officials are “expecting to be able to provide vehicle upgrade grants from October 2022” and that more details “will be published as soon as they are available”.
The CAZ is being introduced in response to a government order for local councils to bring down illegal levels of roadside emissions and will cover most of Newcastle city centre, including the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh bridges.
The charges had been due to start this summer, having already been delayed from January 2021.
Drivers can check if their vehicle is compliant with the CAZ standards at gov.uk/clean-air-zones.
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