Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: charges will NOT go ahead in May as leaders meet to discuss next steps

Signs warning that the controversial scheme will launch at the end of May will also be covered up.

Greater Manchester’s leaders have announced the next step for the city-region’s controversial Clean Air Zone ahead of a meeting on finding a way forward on the issue.

Clean air leaders from across the city-region will meet on 28 February to discuss what happens next after the Government’s old legal direction on the 10 local authorities was withdrawn.

Greater Manchester now has to work with ministers to come up with a plan to meet air quality standards by 2026, not 2024.

It has been announced that charges will not be collected on the most polluting vehicles from 30 May this year and the signs around the city-region warning of that being the implementation date will be covered up.

What is happening with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone?

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A report has been prepared for the Greater Manchester Air Quality Committee ahead of its next meeting.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) confirmed on Tuesday (22 February) that the report contains a number of measures which the committee members are being asked to note.

Daily charges for the most polluting vehicles that don’t meet emission standards, comprised of HGVs, buses and non-Greater Manchester licensed taxis and Private Hire Vehicles, had been due to begin on 30 May but this will now not go ahead.

The wording on signs which have gone up around the city-region bearing the original launch date will be covered up.

And following an agreement with the Government the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras already installed will be used to gather real time data to help inform the new plan.

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This will include monitoring vehicle fleet renewal trends and the specific traffic mix at key locations where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels are in breach of legal limits.

Applications for funding for light goods vehicles (LGVs), minibuses, taxis and private hire vehicles, along with discounts or exemptions under the previous plan, have all been paused because of its withdrawal.

However, HGV and bus funding remains open to support people to upgrade and help deliver improved air quality and HGV funding for small businesses will open from 5pm on Monday 28 February.

Why are these changes being made?

The original Clean Air Zone plan ran into a massive backlash from businesses and residents who feared it would be impossible to upgrade their vehicles and many small firms would be left facing financial ruin.

Protests took place across the city-region, with taxi drivers demonstrating in city centres and a sheep being taken on a bus to demonstrate how some industries simply cannot use public transport.

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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and local authority leaders recognised the issues of financial hardship and problems with compliant vehicle availability and asked for the scheme to be paused.

The government agreed with Greater Manchester that the original plan for clean air was unworkable within the 2024 timescale.

The city-region’s10 local authorities now have to bring nitrogen dioxide levels on local roads to within legal limits as soon as possible and by no later than 2026.

Local authorities have until 1 July to work with government to develop a new plan that will clean up our air while protecting livelihoods.

What has been said about the latest moves?

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A Clean Air Greater Manchester spokesperson said it is important to keep people informed about the green scheme and urged people to check the Clean Air GM website for updates.

More information about the new plan for the city-region is expected to be released within the next few weeks.

The authorities have continued to stress the need for action to tackle air pollution across Greater Manchester, saying it has a major impact on residents’ health.

However, the GMCA said it was vital that people receive sufficient assistance to make the switch and jobs are not put at risk.