Chris Fletcher, Director of Policy & Communications at Greater Manchester Chamber, looks at the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.
The last few weeks have been particularly hectic with the Tier 3 ‘stand off’ being resolved (that feels a long time ago doesn’t it?) quickly followed by the start of the current lockdown we are in. Coupled with a plethora of policy announcements by government including the extension of furlough till March and a raft of new grants and support measures there hasn’t been a dull moment.
Before I lose you at this point thinking this is another piece about Covid – it isn’t.
In fact it’s the opposite. It’s about an issue that has been around some time – it does pre date Covid - it is of critical importance and you have a vital part to play especially on the back of the launch of the government’s long awaited green industrial revolution strategy.
I’m talking about the latest proposals for the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan (CAP) that are currently in the final stages of consultation.
This is an issue we have mentioned before and one which is centred around the introduction of a GM wide Clean Air Zone (CAZ). Full details of the plan can be found at https://cleanairgm.com/
In a nutshell the CAZ will see all non-compliant commercial vehicles, HGVs, LGVs, minibuses, taxis and buses pay a daily charge if they are in or enter the charging zone that will cover all of GM – not just the city centre or town centres but the whole 10 local authority areas. There is a sliding scale ranging from £60 per day for HGVs to £7.50 to taxis – due to start in Spring 2022. Not all vehicles will pay. Those that fit the emissions criteria will not pay a charge.
These proposals are in response to government demanding action is taken and rightly contain a bid for £150m of funding to help cover costs for businesses having to upgrade or replace vehicles.
There’s a lot more to it than that and I do encourage you to read the document and complete the consultation questions. This isn’t a congestion charge as some people would have you believe but if you own a commercial vehicle that isn’t compliant there will be a cost to your business.
Responding to this has never been more important in light of substantial changes to traffic during the pandemic and possible future patterns. Even with funding from government – and that £150m isn’t guaranteed – the amount needed may be a lot more, plus as we emerge from the pandemic many businesses are still feeling the pinch from months of falling sales and heavy use of cash reserves to survive.
Make no mistake air quality needs sorting out, remember all the comments at the start of lockdown in March and April how the air ‘felt’ cleaner with no traffic on the roads - wouldn’t it be great if every day was like that? However as government looks set to give consideration to pay as you go road charging, the banning of the sale of new petrol vehicles by 2030, the whole question of economic and environmental sustainability is rightly top of the agenda again.
There has to be a way to do all this and this really is a time when your ideas and feedback count, so please take time, visit the website and take part. And when you do drop me a line at email@example.com to let me know what you’ve said. The Chamber will be responding to the consultation reflecting the views of members.