The coronavirus pandemic will delay the creation of the largest clean air zone (CAZ) in the UK by a year.
Greater Manchester announced that the implementation of a clean air zone would be postponed, which has raised concerns that a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is being hampered.
The CAZ would be the biggest in the country, covering 10 local authority areas. Private vehicles would not be charged, but taxis, HGVs and LGVs would have to pay to enter the zone if their vehicles did not meet the standards for nitrogen dioxide.
The leader of Trafford council, Andrew Western, said that the creation of the CAZ would be postponed until 2022. The zone had been planned for 2021, but difficulty in carrying out the consultation period whilst adhering to social distancing measures has led to the unfortunate delay.
Western also said that despite the authority having asked the government for £166m, only £41m had been received thus far. The £166m figure would include a £98m fund for commercial vehicles, and a £10m fund for sole traders needing help shifting to cleaner vehicles.
A spokesperson for the government said: “We have agreed with Manchester’s proposal to delay the introduction of clean air zones in their area to help them focus on their response to coronavirus. Improving air quality remains a key priority for the UK which is why we have also launched a call for evidence to ensure we can fully understand the impact that coronavirus is having on changes in air pollution emissions, concentrations and exposure.”
A clean air lawyer for ClientEarth, Kate Nield, expressed concern over Greater Manchester’s postponement of its CAZ.
“Local leaders have provided no explanation as to why the current circumstances have triggered a delay of at least another year and a half before any meaningful action to tackle air pollution commences,” said Nield.
“Greater Manchester has already missed too many government-imposed deadlines. It’s not right that people are having to wait so long for action to protect their health from toxic air.
“The law makes it clear: plans to tackle illegal pollution in the shortest possible time must be put in place as soon as can be. This seems especially important now that our cities and towns are recovering from a virus that affects people’s respiratory health.”
The cities of Bath, Birmingham, and Leeds have also delayed their own projects for clean air zones.
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