The introduction of Britain’s biggest Clean Air Zone has been delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Greater Manchester is the latest UK city to postpone the implementation of a clean air zone (CAZ) – following similar announcements from Leeds, Birmingham, Oxford and Bath.
While urban air quality across the UK has improved due to a dramatic fall in journeys, many transport planners and environmentalists fear that a return to ‘business as usual’ will offset any short term air quality gains.
With public transport systems’ capacity reduced owing to social distancing guidelines, the prospect of increased commuter traffic risks making air quality even worse in the medium term.
Greater Manchester’s planned CAZ is the UK’s largest such zone - encompassing 10 local authority areas. Under its provisions, HGVs, LGVs, buses and taxis would pay a levy to enter the zone if they did not meet nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions standards. Private cars would not be charged.
Andrew Western, the leader of Trafford council, said the CAZ would be delayed by 12 months until 2022 because the planned public consultation would not be practical under social distancing.
Western added that the delay should not Greater Manchester’s ability to comply with legal air pollution limits.
Southampton, Derby and Bristol are still planning to introduce measures to reduce emissions, with Bristol proposing a complete ban on privately owned diesel vehicles entering the city centre during the day from 2021.