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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Protecting Our Shared Environment

Friday, 02 July 2021

The Green Revolution in Greater Manchester is about to begin in earnest. Last week, at a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) the Leaders of all ten Greater Manchester authorities unanimously approved the final version of our Clean Air Plan. This is the culmination of our efforts, mandated by the government, to combat illegal levels of air pollution in the shortest time possible.

As I’ve said in the past, dirty air is one of the most significant public health challenges we face. Despite it being almost invisible to the naked eye, it’s believed to contribute to the deaths of 1,200 people every year in the city region. Much like how the coronavirus has been shown to be particularly dangerous to the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions, breathing dirty air can often fatally exacerbate a number of problems such as asthma or a variety of other heart or lung diseases. All too often the main victims of this silent killer are exactly the same people for whom it is our duty to protect the most; the youngest, the oldest and the most deprived in our society.

The final Clean Air Plan acknowledges the importance of this, while also recognising that air pollution does not stop at the borders of Tameside, or Manchester, or Oldham, or Stockport. It is a challenge that must, and will, be dealt with collectively. The Plan endorses the creation of GM-wide Clean Air Zone (CAZ), specifically targeted at the roads in the city region with the highest levels of nitrogen oxide (NO2), an air pollutant mostly caused by vehicle exhausts. The full map can be found here. Despite what you may have heard, the CAZ is not a congestion charge. Only non-compliant vehicles, usually older and more polluting ones, will be subject to any charge, and we fully hope and expect that the amount of money raised from the CAZ will reduce to zero over time as road users adapt by modernising their vehicles.

I’m also delighted to announce that, after extensive lobbying from the Council and local residents, sections of the A628 and A57 will now be included in the charging scheme. Despite the dangerous levels of NO2 detected along the sections of these roads within the CAZ boundary, they were not initially included due to them being managed by Highways England. We felt strongly that leaving residents in Mottram and Hollingworth vulnerable in this way went against both the spirit and the letter of what we’re trying to achieve, and I’m grateful to the Council officers, working in partnership with the GMCA and Transport for Greater Manchester, who worked tirelessly to successfully make the case to correct this inconsistency. However, I am still disappointed that other roads managed by Highways England, especially motorways, have not been incorporated into the CAZ. It is my hope that, as the CAZ evolves, we will be able to look again at these arrangements.

 

A number of changes to the Clean Air Plan have also been made to reflect the feedback from respondents to our consultation last year, as well as to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on smaller businesses. While charges to travel within the CAZ boundary are due to be phased in from May 2022, all hackney and private hire vehicles (PHV) licensed by a GM local authority will be exempt until 31 May 2023. This brings them into line with vans, minibuses, GM-registered coaches and wheelchair-accessible taxis that already benefitted from a similar exemption. Don’t forget that if you drive a private car, motorbike or moped you will not be subject to any charges at all, and you can also apply for an exemption if you drive certain historic vehicles, military vehicles, disabled passenger vehicles or emergency services. 

We’ve also secured up to £120 million in government funding to increase support for HGVs, coaches, vans, taxis and other private hire vehicles to modernise or replace their vehicles before the CAZ comes into effect. Vans can access up to £4,500 - £1,000 more than proposed in the first draft of the Plan, while GM hackney cabs can get up to £10,000. HGVs can also get up to £12,000 towards replacement, nearly three times more than was initially offered, and coaches are now eligible for £32,000. The application portal for these grants is due to open in November of this year, so please keep an eye out and we’ll update you as soon as possible.

But our Clean Air Plan, as important as it is, is only one part of the jigsaw that is protecting GM’s air and shared environment. We can announce as well that, as part of our commitment to delivering the Bee Network walking and cycling route, bike-share company Beryl has been selected to design, install and operate the largest 24/7 public cycle hire scheme in the country outside of London. Phase one of the scheme is set to include 1,500 bikes and e-bikes, available from over 200 new cycle hire docking stations across Manchester, Trafford and Salford. If it proves successful, we are also not ruling out extending it even further across the city region.

The GM Clean Air Plan is now due to be approved by the individual GM councils before coming into effect, and I am delighted to offer it my full support. The climate crisis may be global, and the solutions will be local. Just as Greater Manchester pioneered the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago, we’re showing that in the 21st century we’re serious about leading the way to a new, better and more sustainable way of life for us all. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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