Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone charges decision to be delayed ‘til new Prime Minister appointed’

Local leaders now want to scrap all fees, but still help fund vehicle upgrades using the £120m that the government has agreed to give Greater Manchester.

The latest plans for a Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester have been signed off by local leaders as the region waits for feedback from the government.

The controversial scheme was set to start in May with daily fees of up to £60 for the most polluting vans, taxis, buses and lorries using the region’s roads.

However, the plans were paused earlier this year after a huge public backlash.

It comes after the government agreed to delay the deadline by which Greater Manchester’s air quality must meet legal standards by two years to 2026 and gave local leaders until July to come up with a new proposal to clean up the air.

One of the covered up signs for Greater Manchester Clean air zone Credit: LDRS

Local leaders now want to scrap all fees, but still help fund vehicle upgrades using the £120m that the government has agreed to give Greater Manchester.

Last month, councillors approved a draft document which claims this ‘investment-led approach’ will achieve air quality compliance in time.

Now, Greater Manchester’s Air Quality Administration Committee has approved the final version of the city-region’s case to scrap all charges.

Speaking to the committee on Wednesday (August 17), Transport for Greater Manchester boss Megan Black (TfGM) said no response has been received yet.

She said: “Since the draft case was provided to the Secretary of State, no feedback has been received from government and it’s not expected until after the new Prime Minister is in post and a new government is formed.”

Councillors were told new modelling carried out this summer forecasts that by 2025, only one site is expected to have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

This modelling takes into account the impact of Covid on vehicle upgrades and the introduction of electric buses across the city-region in the next few years.

Transport bosses say that upgrades to vehicle fleets would see the number of places in Greater Manchester with illegal levels of pollution fall to five by 2025.

They have also argued that rolling out electric buses in areas with the highest level of pollution would leave just one place above legal limits – Regent Road.

TfGM is now developing an ‘additional package of measures’ to improve air quality on Regent Road, making all of Greater Manchester compliant by 2025.

The committee approved the plan, but some members raised concerns about the intended use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The cameras which were installed to enforce the Clean Air Zone charges could now be used to identify vehicles which can benefit from funding for upgrades.

However, talks have already taken place with Greater Manchester Police about the force using the ANPR cameras for law enforcement and crime detection.

Bolton councillor Nadim Muslim said he has reservations about this proposal, but TfGM bosses confirmed that it would be subject to a public consultation.

The Case for a New GM Clean Air Plan was later approved by the committee.