Greater Manchester is to delay the statutory consultation on its Clean Air Zone plans as it warns that the exceptional times could necessitate new thinking on tackling air pollution.
The consultation had been planned for this summer, seeking views on the Clean Air Plan’s package of measures. These include a charging Clean Air Zone from 2021 that would cover all 10 local council areas and levy charges on non-compliant HGVs, buses, taxis, private hire vehicles, vans and minibuses, but not private cars.
However, the combined authority has now said that the current circumstances have limited its ability to progress the delivery of the Clean Air Plan to previous timescales, as already seen in other councils; the Government has already confirmed that Clean Air Zones due this year – including in Birmingham and Leeds – will be postponed until at least January 2021, enabling businesses to focus on work and response efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak.
While Greater Manchester said it remains committed to cleaning up its air and continues work, where possible, to progress the Clean Air Plan, it warned that more work was needed to understand the local effects.
Councillor Andrew Western, Greater Manchester green city-region lead, said: “These are exceptional times that are impacting on all areas of life. Unfortunately, we need to postpone the Clean Air Plan consultation until the restrictions on all our daily lives have been lifted and we better understand the impact of Covid-19 on businesses in Greater Manchester.”
He added: “We are mindful of the significant changes that could result from these exceptional times. The transport sector has already been impacted by the pandemic, and government policies to limit it spreading.”
Western warned that the groups most affected by the Clean Air Plan may require different levels of financial assistance than previously anticipated.
“Our commitment to cleaning up Greater Manchester’s air has not wavered but these are exceptional times that require us to work flexibly and be pragmatic about how we achieve our air quality targets in these unprecedented circumstances.”
As well as assessing the impact of the pandemic on individuals and businesses, the combined authority will also look at how traffic and transport behaviour has changed.
As seen across the UK, the government restrictions on travel have meant that traffic levels on Greater Manchester’s road network have dropped dramatically, bringing significant reductions in air pollution.
Over the coming weeks and months, work will continue to assess the impact of travel changes on the pollution measured by the real-time air quality analysers across Greater Manchester.