Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: public won’t have their say til 2023

Local leaders want to scrap all charges and help fund vehicle upgrades using the £120m that the government has agreed to give Greater Manchester.

A public consultation on the latest proposals for a Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester is set to take place early next year, a new report has revealed.

Members of the public will have a chance to comment on the changes to the scheme which was delayed after a big backlash earlier this year.

The scheme, which was due to start in May with daily charges of up to £60 for the some of the most polluting vehicles on the region’s roads, is under review.

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.

Now, local leaders want to scrap all charges and help fund vehicle upgrades using the £120m that the government has agreed to give Greater Manchester.

The Clean Air Zone had been due to begin in May

Last month, councillors approved a draft document which claims this ‘investment-led approach’ will achieve air quality compliance by 2026.

Ministers are yet to respond to this latest plan which is set to be submitted to the government in its final form following a meeting tomorrow (August 16).

However, earlier this summer environment secretary George Eustice said there is ‘little robust evidence’ that this approach would work and suggested still charging the most polluting taxis, vans, buses and lorries in the city centre.

The targeted engagement is taking place and ongoing with key stakeholders, including an online survey for vehicle owners.

Transport bosses say this input will help inform the development of the plan.

But the wider public will not have a say on the new proposals until early 2023.

A spokesperson for Clean Air Greater Manchester said: “Greater Manchester submitted a draft Case for a new Clean Air Plan to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 1 July 2022.

“The Air Quality Administration Committee (AQAC) will be asked on Wednesday to note that the 10 local authorities have considered the draft case, and to agree to submit the ‘Case for a new Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan’ as an approved document.

“Greater Manchester is awaiting a response from Government on the submission of the draft case and, in line with AQAC recommendations noted at the 1 July meeting, is continuing to progress the policy development for a new, non-charging Clean Air Plan.

“We are currently undertaking targeted engagement with key stakeholders, including vehicle-owning groups and other impacted individuals, such as community and equality-based groups.

“This important engagement process provides those impacted groups with an opportunity to feed into and shape the new Clean Air Plan Policy, including proposals for funding support.

“A public consultation on those proposals can then follow in early 2023. Greater Manchester would then review the responses to the consultation and, if needed, make any adaptations to the proposals as necessary.

“It is anticipated that a decision could be made to proceed with the new Clean Air Plan in Summer 2023, subject to Government feedback.”

A spokesperson for RethinkGM, a campaign group set up in opposition to the Clear Air Zone, said: “It is extremely disappointing that leadership of Greater Manchester continue to ignore the public and residents of the region once again, by leaving public consultation on any CAZ scheme until early 2023.

“With a national cost of living crisis currently under way and residents now choosing between eating, heating and survival, GMCA still fail in their duty to residents and maintain their ill-advised attempt to impose further unnecessary limitations on livelihoods.

“It is quite clear that this scheme now needs scrapping in full and consideration given to the poor, low paid, business and those suffering above all else.”