Clean Air Zone: Greater Manchester leaders urging government to pause parts of plan amid claims it 'penalises people for working'

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Greater Manchester's Clean Air Zone, due to be introduced in phases from the end of May this year, would see the worst-polluting vehicles charged up to £70 a day to drive in the area.


Leaders in Greater Manchester are to ask the government to pause parts of the region’s new Clean Air Zone plan, in what is seen a significant blow to clean air campaigners.

In March 2020, the government ordered Greater Manchester Combined Authority to implement a plan to bring air quality to within legal limits.

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Some 1,200 premature deaths every year in Greater Manchester are linked to air pollution.

Clean Air Zone: Greater Manchester leaders urging government to pause parts of plan amid claims it 'penalises people for working'

Image: A sign, indicating the introduction of the new Clean Air Zone, was vandalised

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But on Thursday, the Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee said an urgent review was needed by the government into the plan’s funding.

Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone, due to be introduced in phases from the end of May this year, would see the worst-polluting vehicles charged up to £70 a day to drive in the area.

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But the committee said global vehicle-supply chain issues, rising inflation and post-COVID economic recovery was making it difficult for businesses to source greener, affordable vehicles.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said he was “pleased” by the decision, adding “it is impossible to proceed on the current basis without causing real hardship to some of our residents”.

“It’s about getting to clean air as quickly as we can,” Mr Burnham told Sky News, “but enabling people to come with us on that journey so that greener really is fairer”.

Clean Air Zone: Greater Manchester leaders urging government to pause parts of plan amid claims it 'penalises people for working'

Image: Andy Burnham praised the move

Sky News spoke to several businesses who said they were pleased by the move.

Jade Hutchinson is a small-flock sheep farmer in Bolton.

Under the current rules, she would have to pay up £70 extra a week to use her second-hand pick-up truck.

Clean Air Zone: Greater Manchester leaders urging government to pause parts of plan amid claims it 'penalises people for working'

Image: Jade Hutchinson told Sky News the new charge was 'penalising people for working'

Ms Hutchinson told Sky News the new charge was “penalising people for working”.

The charges, she says, would mean her small businesses would not be viable.

“If these leaders are thinking about lives, they shouldn’t be affecting people’s lives by charging them and taking their livelihoods away from them,” she said.

Clean Air Zone: Greater Manchester leaders urging government to pause parts of plan amid claims it 'penalises people for working'

Image: Ms Hutchinson said her small businesses would not be viable with the planned charges

But Julia Kovaliova, who lives with her three children near one of Manchester’s most polluted roads, said that any delay was putting health at risk.

“My 12-year old, Maksim, has asthma that I believe was caused by growing up next to such a polluted road,” Ms Kovaliova told Sky News.

Clean Air Zone: Greater Manchester leaders urging government to pause parts of plan amid claims it 'penalises people for working'

Image: Julia Kovaliova and her 12-year-old son, Maksim, are worried about the health consequences if the plan does not go ahead

“I know this is a sensitive issue, when people say their jobs are going to suffer, but city centres are not safe for children right now and we have to do something about it.”

Data shows that 152 areas across Greater Manchester have levels of air pollution that are unsafe and illegal, according to World Health Organisation standards.

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Future modelling shows this is set to rise unless steps are taken, as travel by road also increases.

Ms Kovaliova’s son, Maksim, added: “I think it shows how selfish some people can be, by just caring about money more than caring about other people and other children.”

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