Businesses in Greater Manchester face a “regime of punitive daily charges” after the Government instructed the area to bring forward its plans for a clean air zone 18 months to 2021, FTA has warned.
Earlier this year, the region-city submitted plans for a CAZ covering its 10 boroughs to begin in 2023, also requesting funding to help taxi firms and small businesses switch to cleaner vehicles.
However, the local authorities instead received a ministerial instruction to accelerate its plans to introduce charging for non-compliant vans with no offer of funding.
Mags Simpson, head of policy at FTA, said: “While the logistics sector is fully committed to reducing vehicle emissions wherever possible and acknowledges the role the industry must play in improving the air quality of our cities, allowing only 18 months in which Manchester’s van operators must become compliant before the introduction of the authority’s Clean Air Zone is simply an additional tax on the area’s small businesses.
“The original proposals placed before government allowed time for vehicles to be replaced or upgraded but the new plan will force operators into acquiring costly new vehicles ahead of their standard replacement cycle or into a regime of punitive daily charges.
“It is essential that an air quality scheme for Greater Manchester is developed with the needs of businesses that serve the area in mind, not one which drives up operating costs for small businesses and unfairly penalises the hardworking individuals and businesses which keep Greater Manchester’s economy thriving.”
Andrew Western, green city-region portfolio lead for Greater Manchester, added: “Poor air quality is the largest environmental public health issue facing the UK, with air pollution estimated to contribute to the equivalent of 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester each year.
“Our proposals are clearly designed to take the dirtiest vehicles off our streets as quickly as possible.
“We don’t want people who have no choice but to stick with their polluting vehicle in the short term paying a daily penalty.
“But, by demanding that Greater Manchester bring forward the implementation of a Clean Air Zone affecting non-compliant vans by two years, that’s exactly what the ministerial instruction would do. It’s counter-productive.
“We received thousands of responses to our Clean Air conversation in May and June which shows that people and businesses in Greater Manchester care a lot about cleaning up our air and want to work with councils to get the right final plan for the city-region.
“We want to support businesses now to upgrade their vehicles.
“We’ve asked government for an unprecedented £116m of clean vehicle funding which would go directly to businesses using vans, taxi and private hire drivers, freight and bus operators to upgrade their fleets in the next two to four years.
“But the government has committed no Clean Air Plan funding at all to help Greater Manchester businesses deal with air pollution from their vehicles.”
The funding Greater Manchester requested included:
• A £59m Clean Freight Fund, for upgrading HGVs and vans
• A £29m Clean Bus Fund to support a switch to a greener bus and coach fleet in the city-region
• A £28m Clean Taxi Fund, for a move to compliant hackney cabs and private hire vehicles.
In response, the Government offered £36m ring-fenced to create a network of cameras that would issue fines to those in breach.