The planned charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Greater Manchester would hurt local business, according to the Freight transport Association (FTA).
It is calling for the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and local councils to follow the approaches of Nottingham and Leeds, or risk the livelihoods of many small businesses.
The proposals for the Zone, reaffirmed this week by Burnham and Alex Ganotis, the Greater Manchester green city region lead, would also fail to provide the most effective long-term solution to air quality improvement, according to Malcolm Bingham, head of policy for the North of England at FTA.
He explained: “It is essential that an air quality scheme for Greater Manchester is developed with the needs of businesses the serve the area in mind.
“A charging CAZ of this scale would cause operating costs for some small businesses to soar, unfairly penalising the hard-working companies and individuals that keep Greater Manchester’s economy thriving, while ignoring other contributors to emissions levels across the city.”
From 2021, the CAZ would impose a charge on any bus, HGV, taxi, minibus, or private hire vehicle that does not meet the highest environmental standards. It would be the largest CAZ in the UK outside of London.
Greater Manchester is one of several cities mandated by the Government to consider a CAZ to improve air quality. “Nottingham City Council successfully presented its case to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy,” continued Bingham.
“The truth is CAZs bring no long-term air quality benefit, as all the vehicles operating in Manchester will reach this standard in a few years without it. Councils would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.
“If Manchester feels it must implement a CAZ, it should scale the CAZ back to mitigate the very worst economic damage by, for example, excluding key industrial areas in the short-term, like Leeds.
“FTA is calling upon Manchester to follow suit, and for the local councils to carefully evaluate whether a charging CAZ, covering such a large area, truly is the best option for them.”
FTA is pleased to see, however, that non-compliant vans will not be liable for the CAZ charge until 2023, in recognition of the limited availability of compliant vans currently on the market. “This is some good news for van operators,” said Bingham.
Manchester’s proposed CAZ would not apply to private cars registered in Greater Manchester as, according to Burnham, 80% are already compliant.