Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: Work begins to prepare for major green scheme

The city-region is being prepared for the roll-out of the Clean Air Zone in 2022.

Work is under way to get ready for the launch of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone next year.

The first infrastructure is being installed in the city-region and a timetable for more developments across the rest of 2021 shared.

People are also being invited to give their views on the major scheme to tackle air pollution in Manchester.

What is the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone?

The Clean Air Zone, which the city-region has been directed to set up by the Government, will involve certain kinds of vehicles being penalised to drive on the roads.

The zone will cover all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs and operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Some of the key facts about the Clean Air Zone

Motorways and trunk roads, which are operated by Highways England, are not included.

Currently four types of vehicle are included: light goods vehicles (LGVs) and minibuses, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), taxis and private hire vehicles and buses and coaches.

Private cars are exempt.

Where are we up to with setting up the zone?

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) says the first of around 850 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and 2,000 signs are being installed on the highways network.

The first camera was installed on Vernon Street in Bolton.

All 10 Greater Manchester local authorities have now approved the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan, which includes the Category C zone.

A map of the GM Clean Air Zone, showing the boundary in blue and excluded roads in purple

More than £120m in Government funding has been secured to help local businesses, people and organisations to upgrade to cleaner vehicles and lessen the impact of the zone on wallets.

Contracts have also been signed with Egis Projects SA, McCann & Co Ltd, AECOM Limited and QV Systems Limited to build and operate the GM Clean Air Zone, expand the GM Clean Air Plan nitrogen dioxide (NO2)monitoring network and operate the technology underpinning the financial support scheme.

The accredited scheme for vehicle dealerships to join is now open too.

What is happening next?

A public consultation opened on Wednesday (1 September) seeking opinions on two further points to do with the zone.

There is a question over the inclusion of all vehicles with a motorcaravan type body after a consultation last year revealed that the DVLA’s vehicle categories meant some motorhomes would be charged to drive in the zone but some would not.

The consultation is also asking about including sections of the A575 and A580 at Worsley in the charging scheme.

These were originally omitted due to signage issues but TfGM says these have now been resolved.

The consultation lasts until 13 October.

The GM Clean Air Plan Financial Support Scheme is set to launch in late November to help make sure that affected drivers and businesses can access funding to upgrade to compliant vehicles.

Why is the Clean Air Zone being introduced?

TfGM says the Clean Air Zone is a key component of Greater Manchester’s green revolution.

It says air pollution contributes to around 1,200 deaths each year.

The zone is just one of several being introduced in the UK to tackle harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution on local roads, with similar schemes now live in Bath and Birmingham.

What has TfGM said?

Greater Manchester lead for clean air, Coun Andrew Western, said: “It’s good to see a tremendous amount of progress being made to deliver the Clean Air Zone, which will include local roads in all 10 Greater Manchester local authority areas.

“We’re working hard to ensure we support affected vehicle owners move to cleaner vehicles so they don’t have to pay a daily charge.

People in Bassetlaw were exposed to levels of air pollution close to breaking a safe limit recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), figures reveal. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

“While the zone launches in May 2022, there will be local exemptions in place to give businesses and organisations more time to apply for funding.

“Our goal is to reduce harmful emissions. We want to help as many people and businesses as possible to be driving cleaner vehicles so we can all breathe cleaner air.

“Our clean vehicle funds service will launch in November and I’d encourage anyone who thinks they might be affected to get up to speed at cleanairgm.com, where they can sign up for regular updates.”

Are there objections to the Clean Air Zone?

While business organisations have stressed that they recognise the need to improve air quality and make Greater Manchester a more environmentally-friendly place, they have a number of concerns about the Clean Air Zone.

It has been feared that the scheme simply will not work as businesses will incur the charges for driving in the zone and then pass the cost on to their customers.

Concerns have also been raised that not enough money is being made available for eco-friendly vehicles.

Companies could also face delays in getting hold of the equipment and vehicles they will need to comply.