Three Tyneside councils are to vote this month on clean air zone (CAZ) proposals that will see older HGVs and vans pay a daily charge to enter Newcastle city centre.

The proposed charge, which will take effect from 2021, will be £50 for pre-Euro-6 lorries and £12.50 for older vans.

Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles also face daily fees. Cars have been excluded from any charges at this stage, but the council does not rule out including them at a later date.

The CAZ proposals form part of a wider package of measures designed to improve air quality in the shortest possible time.

These plans have been developed by Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils following public consultation feedback, which highlighted concerns about the potential impact of charges in the first year on individuals, businesses and the local economy.

In addition to the city centre CAZ, other measures include:

  • Changes to the road layout on the central motorway that will prevent traffic from merging on and off the slip lane between the New Bridge Street and Swan House junctions;
  • Lane restrictions on the Tyne Bridge and central motorway. These restrictions will be put in place to support air quality work but the councils are asking government for £40m funding to ensure essential maintenance works take place at the same time to minimise disruption;
  • Changes to the local road network in Newcastle and Gateshead to reflect the Tyne Bridge restrictions and ensure public transport can run reliably;
  • 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;
  • Supporting measures, including grants and other help for people to upgrade vehicles, grace periods where some drivers would not be charged when measures are first introduced and exemptions for certain vehicles that would not be charged at all.

Councillor Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality, said: “Our proposals include targeting the heaviest single vehicle polluters first, such as old buses and large HGVs. Our proposals to government include mitigation and grant provision to upgrade or replace old dirty vehicles to more compliant models as well as ways of making bus services more affordable and practical for everyone.

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“At the same time, we want to improve our key roads and reduce congestion to keep traffic moving and prioritise public transport. We’re trying to take the opportunity to do essential works to the Tyne Bridge, subject to government funding. This will play a key role in not only addressing air quality but ensuring the public recognise we are joined up in our approach.”

However, the RHA has criticised the plans to charge HGVs a daily fee and said such a move could be disastrous, particularly for smaller operators.

RHA spokesman for environment and regulation, Chris Ashley, said: “Hitting firms with £50 daily charges would spell disaster for many small operators struggling on paper-thin margins. Many hauliers will see this plan as nothing more than an opportunity to impose a stealth tax on their businesses.”

If approved by the three councils, a further consultation will run for six weeks on the proposals and a final business case submitted to government by the end of the year.