Rethink to make Clean Air Zone ‘fair to city-region’

BUSINESSES and residents have welcomed the decision for the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans to be reassessed to ‘one that is fair to the city-region’.

The scheme was due to come into place on May 30, operating 24 hours a day every day of the year, and see charges of up to £60 given to drivers of non-compliant vehicles.

It has been developed to tackle harmful and illegally high levels of roadside air pollution and is being implemented nationwide.

In Greater Manchester, drivers of non-compliant vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, buses, coaches, vans, minibuses, Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles and motorcaravans, would have been hit by charges ranging from £7.50 to £60 a day.

But the plans were met with anger and frustration by drivers who do not want to be hit in the pocket.

Now, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has promised to deliver a new proposal that is fairer for all.

In a joint statement with Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he said: “Air quality is one of our biggest health challenges and we are all completely committed to tackling it.

“We have agreed to a short time-limited pause. We will work together to deliver, by the middle of the year, a plan for clean air for Greater Manchester, one that is fair to the businesses and residents of the city-region.

A vandalised sign on the border of Greenfield and Mossley | Saddleworth Independent

“We will deliver improved air quality as soon as possible, not losing ambition but ensuring we take into account the pandemic, global supply chain challenges, improvements already baked into retrofits and the scope as previously laid out.

“We will now work jointly to meet the Greater Manchester and Government requirements on clean air, as soon as possible, and no later than 2026.”

The announcement was welcomed by The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Robert Downes, FSB Development Manager for Greater Manchester, said: “This marks what I hope will be the end of the road for one of the most poorly thought through, poorly timed, business-damaging schemes ever conceived in Greater Manchester.

“There will be literally hundreds of thousands of business owners sleeping easier now this most punishing of schemes has been kicked into touch in its present, unworkable format.
He added: “The average ‘man in a van’ business using a non-compliant Transit type vehicle, six days a week, would have been forced to pay more than £3,000 a year in extra tax had the CAZ gone ahead, with no means to upgrade to avoid the penalty charge. The figures for HGV, bus and coach operators are even more mind boggling.

“There are big questions around why this scheme has been allowed to get almost to implementation without adequate scrutiny, with consultation responses seemingly disregarded, and cautionary advice from business organisations like FSB totally ignored.”

RethinkGM, whose Facebook page against the plans has more than 85,000 members, are calling for the plans to be abandoned completely.

They said: “RethinkGM acknowledges the new proposals, but insists the scheme be scrapped in full.

“It is not representative of current air quality levels, does not reflect the socio-economic impact of high fuel prices, high cost of living and increased business pressures from the pandemic.

“Furthermore, the scheme would still hold potential to impose restrictions on struggling business or residents in future and this must be removed completely in order to lower tensions and anxieties on residents.

“RethinkGM will not accept any scheme redesign, no additional measures to be imposed on residents and imposes the desire and need for a full, clear public referendum on any future schemes or projects.

“RethinkGM welcomes the mayor’s proposals, but stipulates that any charging scheme is not acceptable and using new technology, construction methodologies, transport window modelling, vehicle movements, highway design and other methods could be utilised to meet targets, without financial burdens being imposed.”

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