The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone has become an issue of significant discussion across the conurbation over the last few weeks. The parliamentary background to this is that the Government has mandated major urban areas to introduce zones of this kind. If a metropolitan area like Greater Manchester did not proceed with plans like this, the individual local authorities are now legally liable for having non-compliant air quality. In other words the Council would be taken to court and almost certainly lose, after which it would then have to put forward measures of this sort to remedy the situation.
Several letters I have received have acknowledged this but raised the size and scope of the zone being proposed. However, as every Greater Manchester borough currently has non-compliant air every borough needs a zone of this kind. It clearly makes sense to have one zone rather than ten different ones where people might be charged every time they enter a different part of Greater Manchester. I think it is also sensible for it to cover every part of each Borough, otherwise you would likely just shift the problem from one area to another and risk creating rat runs.
It is important to say private cars are unaffected by the zone. For vehicles affected, the Government promised funding to help drivers switch to compliant vehicles. The Mayor and local leaders have lobbied the Government hard for additional funding and there has been some increase on the initial offer. However, there are clearly still issues as to the adequacy of this funding, particularly for van owners and taxi drivers.
Because of this and other issues in the economy affecting the ability of people to change vehicles, a request has gone from Greater Manchester to the Government (passed by Greater Manchester councils this week) to pause opening of phase two of the Clean Air funding support at the end of January 2022. This was due to open for vans, and GM-licensed taxis and private hire vehicles. This is to enable an urgent and fundamental joint policy review with government to identify how a revised policy can be agreed to deal with the supply issues and local businesses’ ability to comply with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan. The zone itself would still be introduced from May 2022 for buses, coaches, HGVs and taxi and private hire vehicles but which are not registered in Greater Manchester. Full details are available here.
This seems a sensible way forward. Having clean air across Greater Manchester is clearly vital and widely-supported. The issue is how can people be helped with the transition to compliant vehicles? We also have a very specific issue in our area, which is that as the Government exempted national trunk roads from these regulations there is a danger that additional traffic would seek to travel through Hollingworth and Mottram (on the A628 and A57) to reach the M67 and M60. I could not accept this under any circumstances and, alongside Tameside MBC, have been discussing this with the Government for some time. The Government have accepted this point and promised a solution to it, but recently wrote to Tameside MBC to say this would no longer be ready alongside the commencement of the overall zone. I have sought and been offered a meeting with Government ministers at the end of the month to follow this up.