The case for a new “investment-led” non-charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plan in Greater Manchester has now been published.
After the previous plan was referred back to the government for “urgent review” back in January, and after Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceded that it was “completely unworkable” for the region, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has now set out evidence supporting an investment-led, and crucially for residents and motorists, a non-charging Clean Air Plan – which it says is “the best solution” to address the roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) problem.
The publishing of the new plan also comes after Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested that the region consider implementing a smaller charging Clean Air Zone that just covers Manchester city centre.
However, all of Greater Manchester’s leaders say they are clear that clean air compliance should be achieved through a non-charging approach.
Unlike the previous charging Clean Air Zone scheme set out by the government, GMCA says this new plan takes into account the rising cost of living crisis by avoiding charging motorists across the region, and will also “actively consider” the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly on Manchester city centre.
The new case also addresses some concerns that were previously raised over the price of new and used commercial vehicles rising, which makes upgrading less affordable for people.
GMCA insists that tackling the health impact of poor air quality still remains a top priority for Greater Manchester.
“The Case for a New Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan outlines how Greater Manchester would meet air quality legal limits in a way which is fair to local people and businesses and does not create the risk of financial hardship,” explains Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
“Our city is still recovering from the pandemic and we don’t want the government to level-down our city-centre with their proposals to charge businesses from across Greater Manchester who have to travel through or work within the proposed charging area [as] even a small charging Clean Air Zone would result in a considerable financial burden for the many businesses moving products and people through Manchester city centre, providing a significant setback in economic recovery from the impact of the pandemic, and during a cost of living crisis.
“The government wants us to charge Greater Manchester businesses at a time when they can least afford it.”
The case for a new “investment-led” non-charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plan in Greater Manchester has now been published / Credit: David Dixon (via Geograph)
Once the plan has been considered by the Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee (GM AQAC) – which is made up of elected representatives of Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities – it will be submitted to the government to meet a deadline on 1 July.
Tasked by the government to bring NO2 air pollution within legal limits as soon as possible and by 2026 at the latest, the GM AQAC will be asked to agree that the next stage of the new plan will be developed through intensive engagement with business and the community.
“Based on the evidence, including the impact that a charging Clean Air Zone would have on their ability to make a living, and the risk to jobs and livelihoods, we have had the opportunity to fundamentally change the nature of the Clean Air scheme which we now feel is fit for purpose and fair to the people of our city region,” said Cllr Andrew Western, GMCA’s portfolio lead for Clean Air.
He added: “We will now move into a period of more intensive engagement with business and the community to bring together the detailed policy of the new Clean Air Plan.”
You can find out more and read the GM CAZ plan in full here.
Featured Image – The Manc Group
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