Clean Air Plan FAQs

Like many areas across the country, there are illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) air pollution on local roads in Greater Manchester.

The government has directed the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities to achieve compliance with legal limits for NO₂ as soon as possible and by 2026 at the latest.

The case for a new investment-led, non-charging Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan has been submitted to government.  

Read our frequently asked questions below for more information.

Current status of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone

A Clean Air Zone defines an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality. 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 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.

The original Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan (GM CAP) became unworkable due to issues relating to the global supply chain for compliant vehicles as a result of the pandemic, and the emerging cost of living crisis.

It would have imposed daily driving charges for some vehicles which owners may not have been able to upgrade, leading to the risk of financial hardship for local people, and threatening businesses and jobs. As a result, the original GM CAP would not have achieved compliance with air quality legal limits by 2024 as originally directed by government.

In February 2022, government withdrew the legal direction requiring the Greater Manchester local authorities to implement a charging category C Clean Air Zone which would have gone live for some vehicles from May 2022.

The Case for a new Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan sets out why Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities believe an investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan is the best solution to address the region’s roadside nitrogen dioxide air pollution problem.

It would use funding allocated by government to target upgrades of vehicles contributing to localised exceedances of air quality legal limits, while also considering the benefits of significant investment in zero emission electric buses and other local policy changes. It outlines how Greater Manchester would achieve compliance with air quality legal limits in a way which is fair to local people and businesses and does not create the risk of financial hardship.

On 1 June 2022, Environment Secretary George Eustice wrote to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Councillor Andrew Western, Greater Manchester Combined Authority portfolio lead for Clean Air, suggesting Greater Manchester consider a smaller charging Clean Air Zone covering Manchester city centre.

However, Greater Manchester’s political leaders are clear that clean air compliance should be achieved through an investment-led, non-charging approach, expressing concerns that a smaller charging Clean Air Zone covering Manchester city centre could create financial hardship for people who need to pass through the regional centre and impede the economic recovery of the regional centre from the pandemic.

Cleaning up Greater Manchester's air

Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Investing in cleaner air and doing even more to tackle air pollution are priorities for Greater Manchester and the UK government.

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.

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.   

Read more about the health impact of air pollution.

The latest nitrogen dioxide forecasts suggest that the number of locations which breach legal nitrogen dioxide limits will reduce over time, moving from a Greater Manchester-wide problem in 2023 to a localised issue. By 2025, breaches are only forecast in Manchester, Salford and Bury.

An investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan will aim to encourage upgrade to cleaner vehicles, leading to better air quality, by targeting financial support at category B vehicles, which includes buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs. Funding is NOT proposed for vans, LGVs and minibuses (unless a minibus is licensed as a PHV), as these are category C classified vehicles. 

Greater Manchester wants to make sure that the new Clean Air Plan achieves compliance with air quality legal limits in a way which is fair to local people. Given the poor economic outlook for the UK as a whole and Greater Manchester, coupled with increasing evidence of the harm poor air quality causes, this is a delicate balance.

The original Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan (GM CAP) has already started to clean up Greater Manchester’s air through initiatives including the launch of the Clean Bus Fund in December 2020 and the Clean Air Financial Support Scheme for HGVs in November 2021. As of July 2022, funding had been awarded to bus operators to upgrade 1,041 buses. Funding has also been awarded to upgrade 350 HGVs. This is being supplemented by £3.5m of GM CAP funding to install 30 rapid charging points to encourage private hire taxi drivers to move to electric vehicles, with installation due to start in late 2022 and continue throughout 2023.

In addition, Greater Manchester is developing the Bee Network, its vision for an integrated transport system which will join buses, trams, cycling and walking by 2024, with rail incorporated by 2030, transforming how people travel in Greater Manchester. The City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement of £1,070m will further expand and integrate the network, focusing on improvements to bus routes and providing further investment in Greater Manchester’s rapidly expanding cycling and walking network, with £115m to upgrade a third of the bus fleet in Greater Manchester to be zero emission by 2027.

A further £36.9 million in funding has been secured via the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas scheme to introduce 170 zero emission buses – equal to 10% of the whole bus fleet in the city-region – running from Stockport by 2024. 

Greater Manchester has a strong history of collaborative working to secure a sustainable transport system that also tackles the issue of poor air quality. Over the past decade, combined Greater Manchester investment in public transport has been second only to London. Using a mixture of local and national funding, Greater Manchester has delivered a range of key transport infrastructure projects that have helped drive Greater Manchester's regional and local economies. These include Active Travel infrastructure, Metrolink expansion and improvements, bus priority, smart ticketing and information systems, and park and ride sites. Around £200m has been invested each year to improve clean public transport.

Current status of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan

The Case for a new Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan: Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan to tackle Nitrogen Dioxide Exceedances at the Roadside sets out evidence supporting an investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan as the best solution to address the roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) problem.

Unlike the previous charging Clean Air Zone scheme defined by government guidance, the investment-led, non-charging GM Clean Air Plan seeks to attend to the cost-of-living crisis – through avoiding the use of charging. It will also actively consider the impacts of the pandemic, particularly on Manchester city centre, where Greater Manchester needs to support ongoing recovery due to changes in economic activity and the impact of wider global economic instability on supply chains.

An investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan will aim to encourage upgrade to cleaner vehicles, leading to better air quality, by targeting financial support at category B vehicles, which includes buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs. Funding is NOT proposed for vans, LGVs and minibuses (unless a minibus is licensed as a PHV), as these are category C classified vehicles.     

It also considers the benefit of investment in zero emission bus fleets that wasn’t available to Greater Manchester when it agreed the previous plan in summer 2021.

Tackling the health impact of dirty air remains a priority for Greater Manchester but the original GM Clean Air Plan became unworkable and would not have achieved compliance with air quality legal limits by 2024 as originally directed by the government.

Furthermore, a charging Clean Air Plan could have created the risk of financial hardship for people already dealing with the cost-of-living crisis.

Greater Manchester’s local authorities want to make sure that the new Clean Air Plan is fair to people affected by financial hardship, while still meeting legal nitrogen dioxide limits by 2026 and protecting people’s health. Given the situation – a poor economic outlook for the UK as a whole and Greater Manchester, coupled with increasing evidence of the harm poor air quality causes, this is a delicate balance.

Greater Manchester believes that an investment-led Clean Air Plan rather than a charging Clean Air Zone is the fairest approach for our businesses and residents. Greater Manchester has a higher-than-average volume of small businesses, and a higher-than-average proportion of residents who typically have below average disposable household incomes. A charging Clean Air Zone could see businesses forced to pass costs on to the consumer at a time when trading conditions are particularly challenging. As a result, a charging Zone could cause unacceptable financial hardship and potentially contribute to business failures.

In contrast, an investment-led approach would give financial support to businesses that could be in a position to upgrade their vehicles. This would bring fresh investment into Greater Manchester’s local economy and allow businesses to access cleaner vehicles that may be cheaper and more efficient to run.

Government has indicated that the £120m government funding already 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.

As part of the development of the detailed Clean Air Plan policy, it will be important to make sure the right incentives are given to owners of category B vehicles to upgrade through setting the correct eligibility criteria and providing funding at the right levels. 

An investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan will aim to encourage upgrade to cleaner vehicles, leading to better air quality, by targeting financial support at category B vehicles, which includes buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs. Funding is NOT proposed for vans, LGVs and minibuses (unless a minibus is licensed as a PHV), as these are category C classified vehicles.   

The funding amounts and eligibility will be thoroughly explored through the participatory policy approach in the coming months. A public consultation on the new Clean Air Plan proposals will then take place in early 2023, subject to feedback from government. Please sign up for updates on the latest funding news. 

HGV and bus funding remains open to support people to upgrade and help deliver improved air quality.

Over the coming months we will continue to develop the Clean Air Plan with a range of residents, businesses and other stakeholders in Greater Manchester. We will open a public consultation on the package of measures in the new Clean Air Plan in early 2023.

This will mean the proposals consider the circumstances of affected groups and the possible effects of the Clean Air Plan on them. It will also help us to make sure that the new GM CAP is deliverable and effective.

Greater Manchester will also work with vehicle owners so that, where non-compliant vehicles are identified as contributing towards illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in specific locations, any funding packages will incentivise upgrades to the cleanest possible vehicle. This will help reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions and bring health benefits as quickly as possible from every funded upgrade.

An investment-led, non-charging Clean Air Plan will aim to encourage upgrade to cleaner vehicles, leading to better air quality, by targeting financial support at category B vehicles, which includes buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs. Funding is NOT proposed for vans, LGVs and minibuses (unless a minibus is licensed as a PHV), as these are category C classified vehicles.    

We are currently undertaking targeted engagement with key stakeholders, including vehicle-owning groups and other impacted individuals, such as community and equality-based groups. This important engagement process provides those impacted groups with an opportunity to feed into and shape the new Clean Air Plan Policy, including proposals for funding support and wider impacts. A public consultation on the new Clean Air Plan proposals will then take place in early 2023, subject to government feedback.  

Members of the Greater Manchester Air Quality Administration Committee – elected representatives of Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities – agreed to formally submit the final Case for a new Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan (GM CAP) to government on Wednesday 17 August 2022. 

To ensure the development of the new policy is well-grounded in evidence, GM is undertaking a participatory development approach. This means the new policy will be informed by the input of key stakeholders – vehicle-owning groups and other impacted individuals, such as community and equality-based groups. 

Input from those engaged will inform the policy development process and GM will develop and assess a package of measures forming a proposed new GM CAP. A public consultation on the Clean Air Plan proposals will take place in early 2023, subject to government feedback. 

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.

All reasonable costs associated with the development of 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 10 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. 

TfGM, acting on behalf of the ten Greater Manchester local authorities, contracted with McCann & Co Ltd for the installation, maintenance and decommissioning of around 2,200 signs needed across 18 local authorities for a Greater Manchester wide Clean Air Zone. These included the ten Greater Manchester local 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 September 2022 on this contract was £2,216,277. This figure will be updated and reported here each quarter, a quarter in arrears.

In February 2022, after the review of the Clean Air Plan 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 £120,000 for 1,309 ‘Under review’ stickers and to apply them. McCann was 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 £69,300: Bolton (£11,500), Bury (£6,900), Salford (£14,200), Stockport (£17,000), Tameside (£3,500), Trafford (£9,300) and Wigan (£6,900).

The cost of the signage, including any need to update it, is funded or underwritten by JAQU.

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.

Once the new Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan has been finalised, the Greater Manchester local authorities will decide on what will happen to the Clean Air Zone signage.

Under an investment-led non-charging Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan, the ANPR cameras installed for the formerly planned Clean Air Zone could be used to support the identification of vehicles that could be upgraded. For example, ANPR cameras could help determine eligibility for upgrade funding by identifying those non-compliant vehicles travelling most regularly through areas of nitrogen dioxide exceedance.

To support the development of the new Clean Air Plan, Greater Manchester is using the already installed ANPR cameras to better understand the current vehicle fleet on the city-region’s roads and their emissions. This is helping to 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, Greater Manchester can also analyse how specific vehicle types might be contributing to overall emissions.

The ANPR cameras are purpose built and mounted on either lamp posts or dedicated poles. They are designed to achieve 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.

Once Greater Manchester’s local authorities meet their air quality legal limits, the ANPR cameras will no longer be used for Clean Air Plan purposes. Greater Manchester wants to work with government to consider whether they could be used for potential law enforcement activity related to the detection of crime. There would be a full public consultation on any such measures.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan privacy policy explains how Greater Manchester’s local authorities and Transport for Greater Manchester will use and process data for the Plan, including data collected by the ANPR cameras.

TfGM, acting on behalf of the ten Greater Manchester local authorities, contracted with Egis Projects SA to deliver the Clean Air Zone service contract required for a Greater Manchester-wide category C charging Zone. This included the installation and maintenance of ANPR cameras, a public-facing Clean Air Zone 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 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 or underwritten by government.

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

Vehicles that were due to be charged under the old 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.

In March, Greater Manchester leaders set out proposals for a non-charging Category B Clean Air Zone with the aim to encourage upgrade to cleaner vehicles, leading to better air quality, by targeting financial support to category B vehicles, which includes buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs.  

Funding is therefore NOT proposed for vans, LGVs and minibuses (unless a minibus is licensed as a PHV), as these are category C vehicles in the Government’s Clean Air Zone framework. The funding amounts and eligibility will be thoroughly explored, analysed and worked out through the participatory policy approach in the coming months. Please sign up for updates on the latest funding news. 

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.

Discounts and exemptions under the original 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 based on any new scheme agreed with government.