Plans to make Manchester’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) a non-charging scheme are still on the table, following the government’s decision to delay it.

Defra has granted Greater Manchester Councils Authority (GMCA) a delay to the scheme, which was due to launch on 30 May this year, so new plans can be drawn up.

The delay followed an impassioned plea by Mayor Andy Burnham, who argued that, in the light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on residents and businesses, the scheme should be non-charging and the 2024 deadline to meet air quality targets be delayed to 2027.

Under the new timetable GMCA officials are working with Defra to draw up a new plan for the scheme by July.

So far the new plan requires the city to bring its illegal levels of pollution to within legal limits by 2026, two years later than the original deadline of 2024. However no decision has yet been made on Burnham’s request that the CAZ be non-charging.

Burnham believes that a non-charging scheme is still possible under the new 2026 deadline.

In a recent statement setting out the options, he said that under a 2026 deadline there would need to be “a highly-targeted approach to non-compliant vehicles in areas with continuing air-quality exceedances and sufficient government funding to support upgrading of vehicles.

Read more

“This would be intended to avoid any move to charging – either as a GM-wide Category B scheme or additional smaller Category C scheme.”

However he added that the government will have the final say.

A Transport for Greater Manchester spokesman told CM that a new launch date for the CAZ and the scope of the scheme have yet to be decided. He said: “What has been agreed is for GM and the government to work together on developing a new plan by July.

“It does not follow that whatever plan is developed will be enacted from that point – the scope of the plan as well as implementation is still to be determined.”

Defra confirmed the decision to allow a “short delay” to the scheme. It added: “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.

“Given the scale of the proposed Clean Air Zone, at nearly three times the size of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, it is important to get this right.”

Chris Ashley, RHA environment policy lead, said RHA would “very much welcome” a non-charging CAZ.

“However the devil is in the detail. We wait to see what Defra and Andy Burnham come up with. But something has to give because the supply of Euro-6 trucks is just not there and that has to be resolved for this to work. The proposals will have to add up.”