The government has rejected Greater Manchester’s request for a £116m support fund to help local businesses upgrade to compliant fleet vehicles.

More than half of this total was to form a £59m Clean Freight Fund for helping local firms upgrade to compliant HGVs and vans.

In a letter sent to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which represents all 10 boroughs across the region, environment secretary Therese Coffey said she needed to see “fuller justification for each measure identified”.

She urged GMCA to resubmit its proposals using revised modelling that shows a “clearer understanding of what is specially required to deliver compliance and what is needed for mitigation”.

GMCA has also been instructed by the government to accelerate the proposed 2023 deadline for van CAZ compliance, initially set to enable the second-hand market for Euro-6 vans to mature,  by two years.

This would bring vans in line with the 2021 deadline already in place for HGV, bus, coach and taxi compliance.

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GMCA has criticised the government for taking three months to respond to its outline plans and not supporting local businesses in upgrading their vehicles in the same way it says London has been.

It also said the decision to force it to include vans earlier than proposed to CAZ compliance disregarded all local views and consultation.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Green City-region lead, councillor Andrew Western, have called for an urgent meeting with the secretary of state for the environment.

Burnham said: “Greater Manchester stands ready to move at pace to clean up our polluted air and work in partnership with the government. But it would be unfair to ask Greater Manchester to do this alone and to fund the change by fines on small businesses.

“Our message to the government is clear: give Greater Manchester the funds we need to clean up our air and don’t impose a ‘clean air tax’ on our businesses. Give Greater Manchester the same support as London and play fair on clean air.”

Western added: “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 government is providing £36m funding at this stage to help implement the scheme, which includes the installation of a network of ANPR cameras to enforce the CAZ.

GMCA will now work up more detailed proposals for its CAZ, which it will put to public consultation later this year before submitting a final business case to the government.

Too soon

On the decision to accelerate the deadline for van CAZ compliance, FTA head of policy for northern England Mags Simpson, 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 outlined today will force operators into acquiring costly new vehicles ahead of their standard replacement cycle or into a regime of punitive daily charges,” Simpson added.