Those being hit by the Clean Air Zone who don’t even live in Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester’s plans of a Clean Air Zone have divided businesses – with many fearing the government-mandated scheme could cause havoc on their likelihood. Under the plans, drivers of ‘non-compliant’ vans and taxis would be charged when driving into or within Greater Manchester from May. The charges include a GBP60 fee for buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles, GBP10 for vans and minibuses and GBP7.50 for Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles.

The plans are aimed at slashing high levels of air pollution in the area, with it estimated to cause 1,000 deaths a year here and with the region having 152 separate stretches of road on which nitrogen dioxide is at illegally high levels. But it comes at an uncertain time while the world continues to struggle to respond to the pandemic. : Mayor hints contentious Clean Air Zone plans could change – government has an ‘open mind’

Global supply chain issues have seen the cost of second hand vans and taxis rocket during the pandemic, prompting a need for further analysis by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It has been announced that government funding – in the sum of around GBP120m – will be available for ‘people, businesses and organisations’ in Greater Manchester to front these costs. However, it will not just be those in our region who are affected.

Businesses and tradespeople from across the border, in both Lancashire and West Yorkshire, face having to pay a fee to travel into the region. They will be charged when they enter the Clean Air Zone but would not be entitled to the financial support.

Sister site Lancs Live has spoken to some of those businesses who could be affected drastically by the plans – which could be in effect by May 30 – who operate just outside of Greater Manchester. This is what they said.

‘It’s grossly unfair’

Louis Federici is the director of Frederick’s Ice Cream in Chorley.

He believes that his business will be unfairly treated when the new plans come into force. He said: “We are right on the border of the zone and we send a freezer delivery van into the zone daily.

A van belonging to Frederick’s Ice Cream, Chorley

“We will be faced with a GBP700 per year tax just to deliver our wholesale products, but as we are outside the zone, we don’t qualify for any funds to help us update our vans so they are compliant. “A freezer van would cost us GBP35,000 to replace and we would need two of them.

“It’s grossly unfair and I can only see us losing Greater Manchester zone customers as we would have to pass any extra costs onto our customers which will end up with job losses at Frederick’s.” He continued: “We have traded for well over 100 years, my family emigrated from Italy around 1896 and we have enjoyed great success in this country over the years but now I feel as business owners we are losing the freedom to trade.”

‘It will affect the poorest people’

Under the Clean Air Zone plans, vehicles that are deemed ‘cleaner and compliant’ will not have to pay the daily charge. This largely includes vehicles which meet the latest European Standard, known as Euro 6.

But some businesses feel these plans force them into choosing to buy new ‘expensive’ vehicles to avoid the charge, or pay the cost for owning older or second-hand vehicles. Steve McMaster is a self-employed diesel engineer based in Chorley. He says: “The whole funding issue around the new plans is complete nonsense, it will affect the poorest people.”

“Small businesses are the most trapped,” he continued.

Those being hit by the Clean Air Zone who don't even live in Greater ManchesterClean Air Zones are set to be introduced in May this year

“They’re being forced into purchasing expensive vehicles and parts that aren’t even readily available. “These Euro 6 vehicles aren’t being produced and when they are, they’re extremely expensive so how does that work? “My girlfriend has managed to secure a van but it will only be ready in 11 months time.

“Another issue is the fact that the fee is voluntary, so if you didn’t know about it or hadn’t seen the signs or cameras then how do you know what to pay? And if you don’t pay within three days you automatically get hit with a fine, no warning first. What do you think of the Clean Air Zone? Have your say below

“Haulage driving is not just a job, it’s a way of life and this is tearing the lives out of these people. “Andy Burnham wants to charge normal working people to go to work – it’s wrong on every single level.” Andy Burnham has since suggested the most controversial part of the forthcoming Clean Air Zone could potentially be redrawn – while a senior cabinet minister has said he has an ‘open mind’ about what help the government might provide.

Even if that news creates some optimism, it will leave a lot of uncertainty in the meantime.

‘The whole thing is extremely ill thought out’

Mick Ogden is the owner of Mick Ogden Diesels, a company which repairs diesel engines. He is based in Adlington, which lies on the outskirts of the proposed Clean Air Zone plans. Mick said: “If I leave Adlington village and enter Greater Manchester, I will have to pay GBP10 in my van or GBP60 in my truck per day.

“However, if I add another eight miles onto my journey, I can avoid paying the fee – how is that energy efficient? The whole thing is extremely ill thought out.”

Those being hit by the Clean Air Zone who don't even live in Greater ManchesterOne business said the CAZ daily charges would end up going ‘back onto the customer’

Mick said it was ‘inevitable’ that the charges would make an impact on the cost of services – making things more expensive in the longer run. He explained: “For example, a painter and decorator that lives outside the boundaries that has a job in Greater Manchester will keep having to go back to that house, but how can they afford to pay the fee every day?

“Inevitably, the cost will go back onto the customer and everything will be more expensive for everyone else but money isn’t going to affect air quality. “Everything you need comes from a wagon – if you think we can live and people can have what they need without wagons then you’re from another planet.”

‘No one has been consulted like they should have’

Glen Chamberlain runs a fleet of 38 buses in Accrington. He says he will now be charged if he takes any of his customers into the Clean Air Zones.

He explained: “Out of my whole fleet, I only have two vehicles that are Euro 6 compliant. “If I take a school of around 70-80 people and we go into Greater Manchester for 30 minutes each way, I have to pay, but how is that the same amount of emissions as someone who is driving in the Zone for the whole day?

Those being hit by the Clean Air Zone who don't even live in Greater ManchesterAndy Burnham said he hoped potential changes to the scheme could be made

“Ultimately, we are going to have to charge our customers more somewhere down the line to pay for the daily charges, but even if we just upgraded our vehicles we would still have to pass on the cost to the customer because it’s so expensive. “I agree in principle that something should be done for the environment but in practice, it just doesn’t work and no one has been consulted like they should have.”

Digs for Dogs is a dog-walking franchise working out of Bury, who has many of their customers and franchisees located in Lancashire. Alison, who operates one of the franchises in Ramsbottom, said: “The van I use for the business is only non compliant for around six months, so I’ve just paid for that and now I’m being told I have to pay more. “I do the dog-walking out of my love for it, but it doesn’t pay that well and I definitely cannot afford to pay to get them upgraded or even pay the fee.

“Due to the nature of the job, we don’t drive around that much but it’s essential in order for us to pick up the dogs and take them to a local field so I don’t have much choice but to pay. “It’s a real issue because we don’t fall under Greater Manchester, so we can’t apply for funding but we have to pay.”

‘Businesses are really going to suffer’

Steve Jones lives in Dalton, situated a mile outside of the proposed area for the scheme in Appleby Bridge. He owns a motorhome, which will be charged at GBP60 when he enters a zone as well as a Vauxhall Navarro, which will be charged at GBP10 for entering.

Those being hit by the Clean Air Zone who don't even live in Greater ManchesterClean Air Zones have already been introduced in areas like Birmingham

He said: “I regularly travel into Appleby bridge to go to the shops, but now I’ll have to rethink that and go to Parbold.

“The shops aren’t as good there and I’m obviously taking revenue away from one place to bring it to another but I can’t afford to be charged just for that. “Businesses are really going to suffer as a result of this.” Meanwhile, builder Ian Redman travels to Audenshaw from Colne every weekend to see his partner.

He said: “I can’t afford to upgrade my van and we all know that they will move the goalposts even if you upgrade your motor. “I was supposed to be moving to live with my fiance and that won’t be happening now.” “It’s going to affect tradespeople”

‘I think there is a possibility that we can do something different’

Amid the backlash, combined authority bosses confirmed they were seeking approval from the secretary of state for an ‘urgent’ review into launching the CAZ in May.

Councillor Ashley Dearnley, the leader of Rochdale’s Conservatives, said he hoped the pause would lead leaders to substantially modify the scheme. Coun Dearnley said there would be similar issues with Rochdale’s Pennines area, including Littleborough and Yorkshire, as there could be with Lancashire businesses. “It’s going to affect tradespeople,” Coun Dearnley said.

“If a friend of mine has a plumber come over the border to Littleborough, they are not going to come – or they are going to charge you GBP10 to come. “It’s not just going to hit people with vehicles, it’s going to hit the public. “[Tradespeople] are just not going to come.”

Andy Burnham said that he agreed more financial support was needed and felt the scheme could potentially be changed. He explained: “I think there is a possibility that we can do something different, but still achieve compliance, and I think it’s in that territory now that we’re opening up conversations with government.” He added: “That’s what the review is for.

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