Manchester Clean Air Zone: what’s happening with it now in 2023

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The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone has been on pause for a year now - and discussions look likely to continue for some time on its future.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone has now been on pause for a year - and the authorities have made it clear that it will be some time before its eventual fate is decided.

It was agreed between leaders in the city-region and the national government in February 2022 that the controversial eco scheme should be stopped for a rethink over concerns about its viability. Now Greater Manchester authorities have said they are having to submit further evidence about their preferred outcome of the discussions, which is for a Clean Air Plan that does not involve imposing charges on residents or businesses.

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The Government has said there are “underlying gaps” in the city-region’s proposals and more information needs to be sent to London.

Where is the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone up to now?

Following the decision to pause the Clean Air Zone at the start of February last year, a move which came in the wake of an increasing public backlash against the idea, Greater Manchester’s leaders set out a case for what they called an “investment-led” and “non-charging” Clean Air Plan.

The original proposals for the Clean Air Zone had the brakes put on as there were concerns about people and businesses not being able to upgrade to compliant vehicles due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the inclusion of financial penalties amid the cost of living crisis.

Greater Manchester authorities have now said they continue to await feedback on the information sent to the government while working to further develop their proposals and liaise with stakeholders. But they have also said that more information has been requested and the evidence will not be sent for a few months yet.

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Discussions are still ongoing about what measures will be taken to tackle air pollution. Photo: Getty ImagesDiscussions are still ongoing about what measures will be taken to tackle air pollution. Photo: Getty Images
Discussions are still ongoing about what measures will be taken to tackle air pollution. Photo: Getty Images

The Government has said it cannot yet see how the city-region’s plans for a scheme which does not involve charging the owners of polluting vehicles will enable the area to bring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions down sufficiently quickly.

Signs and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras linked to the Clean Air Zone continue to be visible in Greater Manchester, with the signs saying the scheme is “under review”.

What has been said about the Clean Air Plan for Greater Manchester?

A Clean Air Greater Manchester spokesperson said: “Greater Manchester leaders submitted the case for an investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan back in July 2022, to meet a deadline set by the environment secretary. Since then, Greater Manchester has waited for government feedback, whilst continuing to develop the supporting policy, including targeted engagement with key stakeholder groups.

“Greater Manchester is still waiting for a detailed response on the case for a new Clean Air Plan. On 26 January, Rebecca Pow, parliamentary under-secretary of state to the minister for environmental quality and resilience, wrote to ask Greater Manchester to provide additional evidence that will enable further consideration of the case for a new investment-led, non-charging Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.

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“Greater Manchester leaders will be responding to provide the first of the evidence requested, setting out that the next submission of evidence will be at the end of June 2023.

“This will be reported to the next Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We have reviewed Greater Manchester’s proposals and identified a number of underlying gaps in the evidence, meaning it is not yet possible to understand how the proposed approach will achieve compliance with NO2 limits in the shortest possible time.

“We have requested further evidence from the Greater Manchester authorities to enable us to consider the plans further.”

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