Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone, which affects van and HGV owners within the city region, will now no longer launch in May 2022 and instead undergo a ‘redesign’ over the coming months.
The news comes after Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham met with government in January to request a freeze in the planned rollout of the scheme because of concerns over the availability and affordability of compliant vehicles, especially commercial vans.
Within the Clean Air Zone, HGVs unable to comply with minimum air quality standards would have been charged £60 per day from 30 May 2022, and vans £10 per day from June 2023. A £120 million financial support scheme had been created to help organisations to upgrade their vehicles, but leaders have concluded that it would not be enough to avoid significant hardship on local businesses.
According to research commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, supply pressure in the global vehicle market has led to price inflation of up to 60 per cent in some cases for the cost of a new compliant van.
As a result, the government has agreed a “short delay” to the implementation of the Clean Air Zone. Greater Manchester now has until July to set out a revised plan for how it will meet statutory air quality requirements as soon as possible, and no later than 2026 - two years later than originally mandated.
Current evidence suggests that it may be possible to achieve a compliance date of 2026 without implementing a charging zone, but it cannot be ruled out.
In a joint statement on 4 February, Andy Burnham and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Jo Churchill, said:
“We have agreed to a short time-limited pause. We will work together to deliver, by the middle of the year, a plan for clean air for Greater Manchester, one that is fair to the businesses and residents of the city region.
“We will deliver improved air quality as soon as possible, not losing ambition but ensuring we take into account the pandemic, global supply chain challenges, improvements already baked into [vehicle] retrofits and the scope as previously laid out.”
In response, the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) said that thousands of business owners would be “sleeping easier” at the news, but Asthma UK warned the new target of 2026 would put thousands at risk from breathing in toxic air.
Greater Manchester businesses can seek support and advice about the Clean Air Zone and how to upgrade to a cleaner vehicle via www.cleanairbusinesssupport.co.uk