November 9th, 2020
As England faces tighter restrictions as part of a second national lockdown, Greater Manchester’s leaders are calling on all businesses to make sure they have their say in two major public consultations to help shape the city-region’s final plans to tackle air pollution as part of efforts to build back cleaner and greener following the pandemic.
Tens of thousands of people have already engaged with the proposals – with over 40,000 finding out more about key elements of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and minimum standards for taxis and private hire vehicles licensed in the city-region online.
Businesses and people across the region still have several weeks to have their say in the consultations, which run until 11:59pm on Thursday 3 December 2020. People can find out more and give their views at cleanairgm.com and gmtaxistandards.com, or request further support, including copies of consultation documents, on 0161 244 1100. In a first for Greater Manchester, the websites are hosting a virtual engagement space open 24/7 during the consultation period given government guidance around social distancing.
For businesses and taxi operators, the Clean Air team is hosting a series of webinars, which offer a more detailed presentation and an opportunity to ask questions about the plans and funding packages being proposed.
Councillor Andrew Western, Greater Manchester Green City-region Lead, said: “We are fully aware that businesses have been severely impacted by the pandemic, and a further national lockdown to stem the spread of the virus means they continue to be impacted.
“But air pollution also continues to affect us all, particularly our poorest communities, those with health conditions, older people and children.
“Many roads across Greater Manchester are in breach of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, and we need to act now. Our Clean Air Plan is an important part of our post-pandemic recovery, cleaning up our commercial vehicles and providing bus operators and hackney carriage and private hire drivers with access to funding to move to a modern, cleaner fleet – not to tackle congestion.
“It is hugely important for businesses to have their say through the public consultation process to bolster our case and develop our ask of Government for appropriate funds to make sure people get the support they need.
“We have worked hard to produce a funding package that provides the right level of support to help businesses and traders upgrade their vehicles to meet the emission standards of the CAZ.
“Now is not the time for people and businesses to be silent – we want to hear from everyone so that we can clean up our air together. Your voice will help shape our final plans and, fundamentally, the future of our city-region.”
Greater Manchester’s progressive Clean Air Plan aims to bring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution levels on local roads within legal limits in the shortest time possible, and includes a Government-directed Category C* Clean Air Zone (CAZ).
The Clean Air consultation asks for views on key elements of the Zone, including its proposed boundary, daily charges, discounts and exemptions, and the funding packages to support local businesses to upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
Government has already awarded Greater Manchester £41m initial funding and leaders are seeking more than £100m further funding**, alongside a £10m ‘Hardship fund’ to support those considered most vulnerable to the financial impacts of the CAZ.
The purpose of the CAZ is to improve air quality by encouraging drivers to upgrade to a cleaner vehicle. Non-compliant vehicles would start paying the proposed daily charge when the Zone launches (expected in spring 2022), with the exception of vans and minibuses, which would start paying in 2023.
Chris Fletcher, Marketing & Campaigns Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Many businesses are struggling as we enter the second national lockdown, and while it is hard to look to the future we do have a responsibility in tackling air pollution and to make sure the plans deliver what’s best for business and the people of Greater Manchester.
“Greater Manchester is asking for over £150m in funding to ensure the right support is in place for businesses to upgrade their vehicles with enough time before the introduction of a Clean Air Zone in 2022.
“That’s why it is vitally important as part of the consultation process, especially in light of the impact COVID is having on many businesses, that everyone from sole traders to large companies gives their views to ensure Greater Manchester gets its plan right to support the long-term economic success of the city-region.”
The consultation on proposed Minimum Licensing Standards for taxis and private hire vehicles is running in parallel to ensure as much certainty and clarity as possible for the trade on any proposed changes required to their vehicles.
With plans for an emission-free fleet across the city-region by the end of the decade, Greater Manchester is looking to minimise the impact on the trade and incentivise the switch to electric or low carbon vehicles while meeting Clean Air Plan targets.
Eleanor Roaf, Greater Manchester Directors of Public Health’s Climate Change and Sustainability Lead and Director of Public Health at Trafford Council, said: “One positive impact of the first lockdown was the huge improvement in air quality across our city-region, but this started to deteriorate after the lockdown ended. As we enter this month-long lockdown, we should think how we can maintain cleaner air after the lockdown ends, as poor air quality increases our risks from many health conditions, including Covid-19.
“We need to use that memory to help us to take the action needed to make Greater Manchester’s air quality permanently better, and tackle the vehicle emissions that expose us all to harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
“Unless we take action now, air pollution on Greater Manchester’s roads could contribute to a lifetime of health problems for our residents. Greater Manchester is doing something about it, and we need everyone’s help to shape the final plan which will safeguard our air and our health for future generations. You wouldn’t drink dirty water so let’s not ask people to breathe dirty air.”
Greater Manchester’s 10 local councils, supported by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), want to see taxi and private hire services deliver a safe and high-quality experience for everyone, using vehicles that meet high environmental standards. The proposed standards, which would cover drivers, operators and vehicles, and local licensing authorities ***, are designed to make sure every journey is safer and more reliable, and to help secure the trade’s long-term future.
Based on the funding requests to government, Greater Manchester is seeking the most generous offer of support for taxis of any CAZ outside of London – proposing total funding of up to £17,500 to help taxi owners upgrade their vehicles. Funding provision is also being made for private hire vehicles licensed by Greater Manchester local authorities to support the upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
A temporary exemption for wheelchair-accessible taxi and PHVs is also being proposed as well as a ‘Try Before You Buy’ scheme for hackney drivers to test drive electric taxis. Work with the trade is also taking place on the development of a network of taxi and PHV-only electric vehicle charge points.
Transport for Greater Manchester is coordinating the Clean Air and Minimum Licensing Standards consultations on behalf of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities. The findings from the consultation will be used to inform the final proposals next year.
To complete the consultation questionnaires, visit cleanairgm.com and gmtaxistandards.com. For support to respond to these consultations or to request copies of the summary documents and questionnaires, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0161 244 1100. Support for non-English speakers is available on 0161 244 1100.
* A Category C class Clean Air Zone includes non-compliant buses and coaches, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) or vans, minibuses, taxis and private hire vehicles.
** Greater Manchester leaders have called on Government to provide more than £150m in total in financial support for businesses affected by the Clean Air Zone. This includes:
• £98m for a Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund for vans, HGVs, coaches and minibuses.
• £25m for a Clean Bus Fund to support retrofit of the existing bus fleet. (Greater Manchester is also working with Government on additional funding for the replacement of vehicles that can’t be retrofitted with new, cleaner vehicles.)
• A £28m Clean Taxi Fund for taxi and private hire drivers and operators to switch to cleaner vehicles.
• A £10m Hardship fund – dedicated to small businesses and sole traders who could face additional financial concerns to help them switch to compliant vehicles.
*** Standards would cover drivers, operators and vehicles, and go further and greener than the government’s new standards for the sector by including a step-by-step pathway to reducing harmful emissions from taxis and private hire vehicles.
For drivers, the proposals include:
• Common standards on criminal record checks; medical examinations; a local knowledge test; English language proficiency; driver training; driving proficiency; and dress code.
For vehicles, the proposals include:
• Vehicle emissions; age; colour (black for taxi/hackney, white for PHV); livery (common Greater Manchester design with council logo incorporated); accessibility (all taxis to be wheelchair accessible); vehicle testing and design and licensing requirements; and CCTV.
For operators the proposals include:
• Basic criminal record checks for operators' staff; more stringent requirements in relation to booking records; and for operators to take more responsibility for the behaviour of their drivers.
For local authorities the proposals include:
• Developing a common enforcement approach and a framework to which licensing fees are set; and councillors to receive training before they hear applications.