The government has granted permission to Greater Manchester’s authorities to delay the implementation of the region’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which was due to begin on 30 May 2022.
Decisions around the introduction of CAZs are the responsibility of local authorities, in consultation with residents and local businesses.
Since Greater Manchester’s proposals were submitted in 2019, there have been a number of challenges, including the impact of Covid-19 on supply chains and the price and availability of second-hand vehicles.
According to evidence provided by Greater Manchester, these impacts will make it harder for people to upgrade to cleaner vehicles, meaning the CAZ is unlikely to deliver compliance with legal limits by the original date of 2024.
This has led to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham to request more time to achieve NO2 compliance and enable the region’s ten local authorities to review their NO2 plan.
The government said they have carefully considered Mr Burnham’s proposal and following meetings and discussions last week, Environment Secretary, George Eustice has agreed to allow a short delay to the implementation of the CAZ.
This will allow Greater Manchester to provide further evidence and a revised plan by July setting out how it will deliver legal levels of NO2 as soon as possible, and no later than 2026.
In making this decision, the Mr Eustice said it is his priority to fulfil the government’s legal obligations to deliver compliance with NO2 limits in the shortest time possible.
It is his expectation that Greater Manchester will continue to move at pace to reduce air pollution and improve public health.
Given the scale of the proposed CAZ at nearly three times the size of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, the government said it is important to get this right.
Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010, with emissions of fine particulate matter fallen by 11%, while emissions of nitrogen oxides are at their lowest level since records began.
The government is investing £880m at a national level to tackle nitrogen dioxide exceedances, with nearly £170m already being allocated across Greater Manchester to help reduce these levels.
Ministers and officials will continue to engage constructively with Greater Manchester on its revised plans and updated evidence, providing a cleaner, greener and fairer city for all, the government said.
In a joint statement from the Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation, Jo Churchill, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Portfolio Lead for Clean Air, Councillor Andrew Western said:
"We met last week and have had further robust and constructive discussions today to find a solution.
"Air quality is one of our biggest health challenges and we are all completely committed to tackling it.
"We have agreed to a short time-limited pause. We will work together to deliver, by the middle of the year, a plan for clean air for Greater Manchester, one that is fair to the businesses and residents of the city region.
"We will deliver improved air quality as soon as possible, not losing ambition but ensuring we take into account the pandemic, global supply chain challenges, improvements already baked into retrofits and the scope as previously laid out.
"We will now work jointly to meet the Greater Manchester and government requirements on clean air, as soon as possible, and no later than 2026."
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