Greater Manchester’s clean air zone will not charge, says Andy Burnham – if government agrees

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The scheme – which would have begun at the end of May – was paused after the government extended the 2024 deadline for the region until 2026 (Getty)
The scheme – which would have begun at the end of May – was paused after the government extended the 2024 deadline for the region until 2026 (Getty)

No vehicles will be charged to enter Greater Manchester’s new clean air zone if the government agrees, Andy Burnham has confirmed, three months after he paused the scheme which had been set to levy fees on older buses, lorries and taxis.

The new proposals will instead see more incentives offered for drivers and businesses to replace high emissions vehicles, including grants and potential tax breaks, the region’s mayor said.

“The red line is we will not accept a charging clean air zone in Greater Manchester,” Mr Burnham said in a statement. “If that is what the government wants, it will have to impose it.”

Whitehall has ordered all areas of England to bring down air pollution by 2024, with different places taking different approaches.

Greater Manchester's original plan to create Europe’s biggest charging CAZ – a vast 500 square mile zone – was halted in February amid massive protests that the planned fees of up to £60 a day would put thousands of businesses and jobs at risk.

Mr Burnham himself was widely criticised for attempting to drive forward the scheme in the face of the widespread opposition.

The scheme – which would have begun at the end of May – was paused after the government extended the 2024 deadline for the region until 2026.

A new detailed plan for the scheme will now be announced in June or July but Friday’s statement suggests that Mr Burnham is keen to ensure that, if charges are levied, it is not him who is blamed.

He said that he and other council leaders “had listened” and the plans in development were “substantially different”.

By increasing use of electric vehicles and converting buses to electric, along with a raft of other measures, he said clean air targets could be met without charges.

The zone will still be used, along with cameras, to monitor pollution and identify vehicles that could qualify for money to convert to electric.

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