Clean Air Plan FAQs

Like many areas across the country, we have illegal levels of air pollution on local roads across all ten local authority areas in Greater Manchester.

Government agreed that the originally planned Greater Manchester charging Clean Air Zone would not go ahead on 30 May 2022. We're now working with government to deliver a new Clean Air Plan for Greater Manchester by July 2022.

The new plan will outline how compliance with clean air legislation in Greater Manchester can be delivered as soon as possible and by no later than 2026.  

Read our frequently asked questions below for more information.

Current status of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone

No. The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone did not go live on 30 May 2022 as originally publicised. Government and Greater Manchester have agreed to deliver a new plan for clean air by 1 July 2022. The new plan will outline how compliance with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide in Greater Manchester can be delivered as soon as possible and by no later than 2026.

We are committed to cleaning up the air our residents breathe but we need a plan that is deliverable for our businesses. Our research shows us that the pandemic had a significant impact on the availability and price of replacement, compliant commercial vehicles, particularly vans, that we can't ignore. By bringing in changes we can continue to clean the air in a way that helps people to make the change and does not put jobs, livelihoods and businesses at risk.

Greater Manchester’s Labour leaders wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 3 March 2022 asking for clarification about whether a Clean Air Zone remains a legal requirement and suggesting principles for an alternative plan.

No decision has yet been taken on a new plan for clean air in Greater Manchester and any plan would have to be approved by government. Government and Greater Manchester have agreed to deliver a new plan for clean air by 1 July 2022. The new plan will outline how compliance with clean air legislation in Greater Manchester can be delivered as soon as possible and by no later than 2026.

Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK and investing in cleaner air and doing even more to tackle air pollution are priorities for Greater Manchester and the UK government. However, action must be proportionate, with the interests of local people at the heart of action to improve air quality. 

A Clean Air Zone defines an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated to shape the environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth. Clean Air Zones aim to address all sources of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and reduce public exposure to them using a range of measures tailored to the particular location. Clean Air Zones fall into two categories:

Non-charging Clean Air Zones: Defined geographic areas used as a focus for action to improve air quality. This action can take a range of forms but does not include the use of charge-based access restrictions.

Charging Clean Air zones: Zones where, in addition to the above, vehicle owners are required to pay a charge to enter, or move within, a zone if they are driving a vehicle that does not meet the particular emission standard for their vehicle type in that zone. Clean Air Zone proposals are not required to include a charging zone. 

Governance and the decision for a new Clean Air Plan

Greater Manchester leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester kept the original Clean Air Plan under constant review, tracking emerging evidence and listening to our businesses and residents who said it would cause them financial hardship. Late in 2021 they commissioned an independent review of emerging global supply chain issues and the impact this could have on the cost and availability of vehicles, particularly vans.  

We are committed to cleaning up the air our residents breathe – but in a way that helps people to make the change and does not put jobs, livelihoods and businesses at risk. Government has now given Greater Manchester until July 2022 to present a revised plan to achieve compliance with legal levels of nitrogen dioxide on the local road network in the shortest time possible and by 2026 at the latest.

The original Clean Air Plan had already started to have a positive impact. Within the next few months, 80% of Greater Manchester’s bus fleet will be compliant with Clean Air emission standards. Greater Manchester has now been given until 2026 to achieve compliance with legal levels of nitrogen dioxide on the local road network and is working on a revised Clean Air Plan with government. 

Health impact of polluted air in Greater Manchester

Public Health England calculate that poor air quality contributed to the equivalent of 1,200 early deaths per year in Greater Manchester in 2016 through its Public Health Outcomes Framework, which gave a spatial breakdown of deaths attributable to air pollution.
  
 In 2019, Public Health England published a report quoting that at a UK level, the equivalent of between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year were attributable to long-term exposure to air pollution. Based on the size of the Greater Manchester population, this could equate to between 1,300 and 1,700 deaths per year in region.   

Air pollution harms our health at every stage of life – in fact, the effects can start as early a baby’s first few weeks in the womb. The most vulnerable people in society are hit hardest – children, older people and those already in poor health. Read more about the health impact of air pollution.

Air quality in Greater Manchester

Yes, the ten Greater Manchester local authorities remain fully committed to cleaning up the air our residents breathe – but in a way that helps people to make the change and does not put jobs, livelihoods and businesses at risk. Due to vehicle supply chain issues beyond Greater Manchester’s control, the original Clean Air Plan would not have delivered compliance with legal air quality levels by 2024.

Government and Greater Manchester have agreed to deliver a new plan for clean air by July 2022. The new plan will outline how compliance with clean air legislation in Greater Manchester can be delivered as soon as possible and by no later than 2026.

The Mayor and Greater Manchester leaders recognise that there are currently breaches of legal air quality limits right across the city-region and remain entirely focused and committed to addressing this to improve public health. However, this has to be done in the right way which enables and supports people to upgrade their vehicles and does not unnecessarily penalise people and businesses.   

Due to evidence showing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chains and the price and availability of second-hand vehicles making it harder for people to upgrade, government has agreed to delay the implementation of the current Greater Manchester-wide Clean Air Zone while a new plan is agreed.

Infrastructure, procurement, signage and cost of the Clean Air Zone

The development of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan is funded by the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), the joint Defra (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) and DfT (Department for Transport) unit established to deliver national plans to improve air quality and meet legal limits. The costs related to the Plan’s implementation and operation are directly funded or underwritten by JAQU.

Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities now have until 1 July 2022  to work with government to develop a new plan. All reasonable costs associated with the new plan, including the essential requirement to update existing signage, will continue to be funded by government.

Following competitive tenders run by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) on behalf of the ten local authorities, the following companies have been appointed to deliver work for the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone:

  • Egis: Responsible for the installation and maintenance of around 900 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, and a Clean Air Zone office to handle payments, discounts, exemptions and financial reconciliation along with any penalty charge notices (PCNs) that are issued to non-payers of the charge.

  • McCann & Company Limited: Five-and-a-half-year contract to design, manufacture, install, maintain and decommission more than 2,200 signs to support the Clean Air Zone.

  • Legal Services Alliance: A collaboration of Squire Patton Boggs and BDP Pitmans advising TfGM on the project. 

We’ve stopped installing any further Clean Air Zone signs and ANPR cameras. The Clean Air Zone go-live date has now been covered on installed signs to reduce any confusion for people driving in the city-region. All reasonable costs associated with the new plan, including the essential requirement to update existing signage, will continue to be funded by government.

The ANPR cameras are purpose-built and mounted on either lamp posts or dedicated poles. They are designed to have a specific field of view and are fixed to ‘look’ at the highway and record the registration number of passing vehicles so that the DVLA can advise us of the specific type of vehicle and the emission standards of its engine.

As part of the Clean Air Plan review with government, we are using the ANPR cameras that have already been installed to better understand the current vehicle fleet on Greater Manchester’s roads and their emissions. This will help us understand how vehicle fleets have naturally renewed over the development of the Clean Air Plan, and what impact the pandemic may have had. Where ANPR cameras are next to air quality monitoring stations, we can also analyse and understand how specific vehicle types might be contributing to overall emissions.

Once our air quality meets legal limits, the cameras will no longer be used for Clean Air Zone purposes. Instead, we could consider other uses for CAZ infrastructure - for example, Greater Manchester Police could use the ANPR cameras for law enforcement. There would be a full public consultation on any such measures.

No. ANPR cameras already installed would be used to capture data to help us to better understand the current vehicle fleet on Greater Manchester’s roads and their emissions. This will help us understand how vehicle fleets have naturally renewed over the course of the Clean Air Plan project, and what impact the pandemic may have had.

TfGM, acting on behalf of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities, contracted with McCann & Co Ltd for the installation, maintenance and decommissioning of the circa 2,200 signs required across 18 local authorities for a GM wide category C charging Clean Air Zone. These included the 10 GM authorities and the eight neighbouring authorities of Calderdale, Kirklees, Derbyshire, Cheshire East, Warrington, St Helens, Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen. The value of the contract is £3.04m. Expenditure to the end of March 2022 on this contract totals £2,048,872. This figure will be updated and reported here each quarter, a quarter in arrears.

In February 2022, after the review of the GM Clean Air Plan (GM CAP) was announced, signage installation on the local road network was paused and a sticker to cover the planned opening date on installed signs was required. A further order was awarded to McCann for £120k to manufacture 1,309 ‘Under Review’ stickers and to apply them. McCann were responsible for applying the stickers to the signs in the following local authorities: Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Calderdale, Kirklees, Derbyshire, Cheshire East, Warrington, St Helens, Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen. The following local authorities applied the stickers to the signs in their own areas at a total cost of £69.3k: Bolton, Bury, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

The development of the GM CAP is funded by the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), the joint Defra and DfT unit established to deliver national plans to improve air quality and meet legal limits. The costs related to the business case, implementation and operation of the GM CAP are either directly funded or underwritten by JAQU, and any net deficit over the life of the GM CAP will be covered by the New Burdens Doctrine, subject to a reasonableness test. This includes the requirement to update existing signage.

National Highways is responsible for the work carried out on signage on the Strategic Road Network, which includes motorways. We don’t have details of the costs for this work.

TfGM, acting on behalf of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities, contracted with Egis Projects SA to deliver the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) service contract required for a GM-wide category C charging CAZ. This included the installation and maintenance of ANPR cameras, a public-facing CAZ office to handle payments, discounts, exemptions and financial reconciliation along with any Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). Expenditure to the end of March 2022 on the CAZ service contract, including ANPR cameras, was £6,101,048.

All reasonable costs associated with the Clean Air Zone, including the installation of ANPR cameras, continue to be funded by government.

This figure will be updated and reported here each quarter, a quarter in arrears.

Government has indicated that the £120m government funding awarded to Greater Manchester for eligible people and businesses to upgrade non-compliant vehicles will continue to be available to support delivery of the new Clean Air Plan. The new plan will include arrangements for how the remaining funds – around £100m – can best be targeted to tackle deliver legal levels of nitrogen dioxide on the local road network. HGV and bus funding remains open to support people to upgrade and help deliver improved air quality.

Affected vehicles – those that were due to be charged under the old Clean Air Plan

Greater Manchester is working on a new Clean Air Plan with government, and has agreed to deliver, by July, a new plan for clean air in the city-region that is fair to businesses and residents.  This will allow Greater Manchester to provide further evidence, setting out how it will bring levels of nitrogen dioxide on the local road network within the legal limit as soon as possible, and no later than 2026. 

We'll keep this website updated and people are encouraged to sign up to the CleanAirGM newsletter where we will be providing regular updates on the latest status regarding the Clean Air Plan. 

Funding for eligible people and businesses to upgrade non-compliant HGVs and buses will remain open. Those who have applied for funding to upgrade their vehicles or who have already received a funding award can continue with the process. People or businesses who have upgraded their vehicle with Clean Air Funds are not required to return any grant money.

Funding for eligible owners of HGVs and buses remains open to support them to upgrade and help deliver improved air quality. This is because the emissions reduction for an HGV or bus changing from a non-compliant vehicle to a Euro VI model is greater than for smaller such as taxis and vans, and so the air quality benefits to Greater Manchester per successful fund application are maximised.  

Those who have applied for funding to upgrade their vehicles or those who have already received a funding award can continue with the process under the current policy.

We know that some people had made plans to upgrade their vehicle and placed orders in preparation for the taxi, private hire vehicle and light goods vehicle funds opening at the end of January 2022.

Those vehicles owners who had already placed orders pending funding opening at the end of January can contact Clean Air Greater Manchester for advice to make sure they are not negatively affected by the decision to pause the opening of the funds, and that awards can be made where appropriate.

Anyone who is affected by this should contact Clean Air Greater Manchester for advice on 0161 244 1333 or by email info@cleanairgm.com.

Greater Manchester is working with government to develop a new Clean Air Plan. In the meantime, discounts and exemptions under the current Clean Air Plan policy have been paused. 

Greater Manchester is now working with government on a revised plan, which will include more detail on discounts and exemptions. We will keep people updated on any applications that should be required on the basis of any new scheme agreed with government.