Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead has announced final Clean Air Zone plans that would see a Class C charging CAZ implemented in 2021 – bringing charges for vans from the outset but not cars for now.
Revised after previous plans to charge drivers to cross bridges over the River Tyne had caused a public backlash, the latest plans will not see charges initially levied on private car drivers – although the councils will consider introducing charges for polluting private vehicles at a future date based on a future consultation.
Cabinet meetings will be held this month to seek the approval of councillors in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead on the final package of measures ahead of a six-week public consultation before the plans are submitted to the Government at the end of the year.
The latest proposals, in response to the Government telling the councils to cut Tyneside’s air pollution as quickly as possible, include a smaller charging Clean Air Zone covering only Newcastle City Centre affecting non-compliant buses, coaches, taxis (Hackney Carriages and private hire vehicles), heavy goods vehicles and vans from 2021.
In addition, the councils are looking at support measures including road layout changes and new delivery hubs for smaller goods vehicles outside of the charging zone, from where ‘last-mile’ deliveries can be made by electric vehicle or cargo bike.
Cllr Martin Gannon, leader at Gateshead Council said: “Working across local authorities we have developed a Clean Air Zone in Newcastle’s city centre that will initially focus on non-compliant buses, coaches, HGVs, vans and taxis. We believe this will improve our air quality as quickly as other options but will be less damaging for our region’s economy.
At this stage, we will not be looking to charge private vehicles as we firmly believe that there have to be credible alternatives in place for people to get out of their cars, such as better walking and cycling infrastructure and cheaper and more reliable forms of public transport which will be our primary focus.
“We may need to look again at private cars in the future which will require further consultation, but we believe our proposals should – if the supporting measures are funded adequately by government – bring our air quality to legal levels and protect the health of our population.”
Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality, added: “Simply charging everyone for driving into Newcastle city centre or over our bridges isn’t going to clean up air quality on its own.
“It’s a very uncertain time for the country’s economy for a lot of reasons and we’re trying to avoid adding disruption to our local economy just to satisfy a narrow focus from government that we’ve consistently argued isn’t comprehensive in what it’s trying to achieve.”
The proposed charges for non-compliant vehicles would stand at £50 per day for HGVs, coaches and buses and £12.50 for taxis and vans.