Manchester clean air zone halted by Andy Burnham after protests

Controversial plans for a Greater Manchester clean air zone were abruptly delayed following a meeting with Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham and the government – where they have now been given the deadline of July 2022 to submit a revised plan.

Under the initial plans, phase one of the scheme was set to start on the 30 May 2022 to clean up the air by 2024 and it would see the most polluting vans, lorries, buses and coaches being charged to drive within the county.

Lorries, coaches and buses would be charged £60 per day, vans £10 per day and taxis and private hire vehicles £7.50 per day which resulted in fierce backlash from drivers all over the county.

Burnham requested more time as evidence suggested Manchester will not meet legal emissions limits by the original date of 2024.

He said the impact of Covid-19 on supply chains and the price and availability of second-hand vehicles will make it harder for people to upgrade their vehicles.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said that this evidence suggests that these impacts will mean the clean air zone will not deliver legal pollution limits by 2024.

The delay also comes after huge concerns from business owners, sole traders and many others who will be affected protested for the zone to be scrapped altogether.

The clean air zone sparked anger amongst small businesses and van owners across the county in recent months which is one of the main reasons for the delay.

Stuart, who owns a heating business in Wigan explained how his business will be severely affected by the zone as his van doesn’t comply with the new regulations.

He set up the business at the beginning of 2021 investing over £15,000 of his own money into the business including his van and the sign writing on it.

He said: “I’m all for green technology, but I think this tax is the wrong way to do it. Why should I go into debt as a business and have these payments when at the minute we’re trying to get on our feet. All we want to do is move forward and build year on year and start earning a profit.

“Going into our second year this year, we’re hoping to build on what we did last year. This clean air zone charge is not acceptable.

“If I have to start paying £300 a month, we can pass it on to the customer but in the perfect world that’s not the perfect position because I’m going to have to watch my prices as are all the other heating engineers like me.”

It’s not just small business owners who are concerned about the zone either. Campervans and motorhomes will also be charged from £10 up to £60 a day.

Sophie, who lives in her van in Saddleworth lives in a van because she can’t afford to buy a house.

She said that it’s completely unnecessary to put an entire county in a clean air zone and that it should only be implemented in city centre zones.  

“It’s going to make life unaffordable for me to live in Greater Manchester and I only drive my van around as little as possible. I am a climate activist myself, I have sat in roads before, but this is putting everything on the individual for people like me.”

She added the main reasons why people have older vehicles is because they can’t afford a new one, so it’s going to be the poorest people who are hit the hardest.

“For me it will mean I’ll move out the area. If I could afford to have an electric or low emissions vehicle that I could live in I would do but that’s completely unaffordable.

“This is really devastating for me because everything I’m doing in my life is in support of the climate.

“It’s a really sad situation because all my family and friends live round here, I’ve grown up here. To think that this is going to push me out of my own home.”

The zone is aimed at tackling illegal levels of harmful pollutants like Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) that affect all 10 local authority areas in the region as air pollution is estimated to cause over 1,200 premature deaths a year in Greater Manchester.

Client Earth lawyer, Katie Nield said: “This kind of clean air zone is essential to prevent the worst impacts of air pollution and to make sure pollutant levels are reduced to within legal limits.

“All the evidence clearly shows that these kinds of measures are the most effective way to quickly bring down illegal levels of air pollution.”

The region has 152 separate stretches of road of which nitrogen dioxide is at illegally high levels.

The zone will span across all 10 districts of Greater Manchester and cover an area of approximately 493 miles, making it the largest in the UK.

Client Earth confirmed they are watching the situation in Manchester very closely due to the delays and if NO2 levels aren’t brought down they will consider legal action.

The revised plan in July will see Burnham and the government meet to set out how they plan to lower NO2 levels to legal limits by no later then 2026.

Related Articles