Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Government have announced that Manchester's clean air zone (CAZ) has been put on hold to find a solution that is fairer to local businesses and residents.
A ‘Category C’ charging clean air zone (CAZ) covering Greater Manchester was due to be launched from May 30, and would operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Non-compliant coaches and HGVs were due to be charged £60 to enter the zone, and taxis and private hire vehicles £7.50, with a temporary exemption for Greater Manchester-licensed vehicles until May 31, 2023.
Older vans and minibuses would also get an exemption until the same date but would be charged £10 thereafter.
Charges were due to be based on vehicles meeting certain emission standards – Euro6/VI or better for diesel engines, and Euro4 or better for petrol.
However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, have annnounced that they will look again at how best to improve air quality in the region, with new plans expected to be unveiled by the middle of this year.
A joint statement from environment minister Jo Churchill, the Mayor of Greater Manchester and GMCA portfolio lead for clean air, Cllr Andrew Western, said that they had met last week and had further "robust and constructive" discussions today (Friday, February 4) to find a solution.
"Air quality is one of our biggest health challenges and we are all completely committed to tackling it," the statement read.
"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 retrofits and the scope as previously laid out.
"We will now work jointly to meet the Greater Manchester and Government requirements on clean air, as soon as possible, and no later than 2026."
PM criticises Manchester CAZ
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had criticised the scheme earlier this week at PMQs, labelling Greater Manchester’s CAZ as “completely unworkable” and it would “damage” local businesses.
The PM said: "I know from my own experience how vital it is when you're trying to clean up air in a great city that you do not unjustly penalise business and small business and it's become clear that the scheme proposed by the Labour mayor in Manchester is completely unworkable, would do more damage to businesses and residents in Manchester."
The Government has been calling on local authorities to introduce CAZs since the UK's highest court, the Supreme Court, ordered ministers in 2015 to take immediate action to cut air pollution.
Last month, Burnham asked the Government to pause funding to upgrade vans, taxis, coaches and minibuses to cleaner models, with operators unable to access new vehicles and record prices in the used market.
He said that Greater Manchester's leaders had "repeatedly raised concerns" about the level of funding being offered to help people upgrade vehicles.
He added that he was "not and have never been the instigator nor the final decision maker in this scheme" and the Government had "initiated it".
The region had secured £120 million in Government funding to help fleets upgrade to cleaner, compliant vehicles, with applications for HGVs opening in November, last year.
It had earmarked £87.9m for its Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund to upgrade vans, HGVs, coaches and minibuses, and £21.4m through the Clean Taxi Fund for GM-licensed taxi and private hire vehicle owners, drivers and operators to switch to cleaner vehicles.