Clean Air Zone could be ‘final nail’ for family’s 100-year-old ice cream firm

Owners of a 100-year-old ice cream business in Tameside say that 2022 will be the firm’s final year if new Clean Air charges come into force. The new daily charge, to be introduced as part of Manchester’s Clean Air Zone in May, will cost the historic Levaggi’s Ice Cream GBP30,000 a year. The renowned business, that has only recently celebrated a century on the streets, says that this year will be its last as it will struggle to afford the new fees following a difficult two years with the pandemic.

: ‘It’ll cripple normal hardworking people’: Why thousands are fuming about Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone First founded in 1920 by Victor Levaggi, an Italian immigrant who moved to Hyde before the First World War, the business is still a staple in Tameside. It has been around for so long that ice creams were once even served from a horse and carriage.

The original ‘Levaggi’s Ices’ was served form a horse and carriage in the 1920s

It has ‘survived two world wars and the pandemic’ according to long-time partner Mark Atherton – as he fears the company will not see the end of this year.

Paying out GBP10 a day – amounting to GBP560 a week – for ice cream vans would equate to a staggering yearly cost of GBP29,120 for the company to drive its vehicles in Manchester. ‘Clean Air Zone Greater Manchester’ (CAZ) is a new scheme set to reduce air pollution on the city’s roads by charging owners of buses, taxis, vans and HGV vehicles a daily charge for failing to meet emissions criteria. The CAZ will be the largest of its kind in the country, covering all ten boroughs and an area of around 493 square miles.

It is set to come into force at the end of May.

Clean Air Zone could be 'final nail' for family's 100-year-old ice cream firmBarry Sullivan, Anthony Biondi, Russ Hodson, Mark Atherton, Jake Hodson and Stephen Cassidy are all Manchester based ice cream truck owners

Cameras will be used to enforce non-payment of the CAZ charge which is GBP60 a day for HGVs buses and coaches, with vans paying GBP10 and taxi and private hire vehicles paying GBP7.50. Mark, who has managed the company’s eight ice cream vans for more than 30 years, told the M.E.N that 2022 will be Levaggi’s last year on the streets. He said: “Businesses have had two awful years with Covid but this will make it even more difficult for us to trade.

“I thought there would be a consultation on introducing this daily charge for vehicles, but all of a sudden we started seeing the signs popping up everywhere and we realised we are being forced into it. “I think the council has underestimated how many people will actually be impacted by this. Businesses like ours, that only have busy periods during summer, will really struggle.”

Clean Air Zone could be 'final nail' for family's 100-year-old ice cream firmJake Hodson, Russ Hodson, Mark Atherton, Anthony Biondi, Stephen Cassidy and Barry Sullivan, of Levaggi’s

Mark said the company purchased 2.5Di Mercedes transit vans which are difficult to modify.

Alternatively, they could buy vans using Euro 6 diesel engines to avoid the charge, but these come at a cost of ‘around GBP70,000 each’, according to Mark. Funding will also be made available to modify the vehicles, initially being targeted at micro-businesses, self-employed people, sole traders, charities, social enterprises, and private owners and registered keepers of a non-compliant vehicle. However Mark said it would not be possible to modify all eight vans and that products will have to see their prices rise as a result.

Clean Air Zone could be 'final nail' for family's 100-year-old ice cream firmClean Air Zone signs have been popping up across Greater Manchester in recent weeks

He added: “Even if we got thousands in support, it wouldn’t be enough to help us convert all our eight vans.

“If we have all of them going out every day in summer, that will cost us GBP80 every day before even selling anything. “How does a small business even begin to afford that? Especially when income isn’t guaranteed day to day.

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Clean Air Zone could be 'final nail' for family's 100-year-old ice cream firm

Keep up to date with the top stories on life in and around Tameside with the free email newsletter from MyTameside.

The MyTameside newsletter goes out weekly on Wednesdays with a selection of our most popular articles, including the latest on the coronavirus pandemic and how Tameside is coming to terms with it. To sign up to the MyTameside newsletter simply click on this link, enter your email address and put a tick against the box for ‘MyTameside News’. “It also will have a knock on effect – our suppliers with HGV lorries and vans will be paying the new fee each day, so their prices will increase.

“That will mean we will have to put our prices up, which people just won’t want to pay for and we will end up losing custom. “It is going to close our business. It is such a shame – this business has been a huge name in Tameside for years and has been through so much, including two world wars, all to meet its end because of this new tax.”

Councillor Andrew Western, clean air lead for the council previously told the M.E.N : “We’ve been directed by national government to introduce a Clean Air Zone to bring harmful nitrogen dioxide air pollution levels within legal limits on local roads in the shortest possible time, and by 2024 at the latest. “Financial support is being offered to as many affected vehicle owners as possible to help them move to cleaner vehicles so they don’t have to pay a daily charge. I’d encourage HGV owners to use the online checker to see if they are affected and find out more about their options as soon as possible.

“We also want to be clear – this scheme is not designed to make a profit and Greater Manchester is seeking to put any money raised back into the Financial Support Scheme to help others to upgrade, as soon as possible.” There is also new service in place to help businesses, sole traders and self-employed people understand their options for complying with the new Zone. A team is on hand to give advice on vehicle compliance and how people can adapt their business to minimise the financial hit.

More information on the Clean Air Zone is available online here.

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