Adele Bradley
By Adele Bradley

Senior Staff Writer

10 September 2021

| | 4 min read

Transport

Proposed support measures set out for those affected by CAZ charges

Final plans for a Clean Air Zone to help protect people from harmful air pollution will be put before councillors this month.

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Proposals include £23m of funding of support for drivers affected by the Clean Air Zone

The plans will be supported by proposals for a £23m package of support for drivers affected by the Clean Air Zone charge.

Cabinet members in Newcastle and Gateshead are being asked to consider the final business case, which sets out the councils’ response to a government legal order demanding action on pollution levels in areas where they exceed legal limits.

The plans include a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) covering Newcastle city centre as well as support packages for drivers of non-compliant taxis, vans, lorries and buses who would face charges to enter the zone from July 2022.

As well as funding to help drivers upgrade to a cleaner vehicle if their current one does not comply with the required CAZ emissions standards, there are also plans to delay charging for some vehicles to allow time for upgrades to take place, while others will be completely exempt.

The level of support available to help drivers will be determined by government but, subject to cabinet approval, councils are set to request just under £23m of grant funding. If approved by government, this would see vehicle upgrade grants of:

  • Up to £3,700 for taxis and private hire vehicles;
  • Up to £4,000 for wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire vehicles;
  • Up to £20,000 for heavy goods vehicles;
  • Up to £4,500 for light goods vehicles; and
  • Up to £16,000 for buses.

A two-year exemption to allow time for upgrades to take place is proposed for the following vehicles:

  • Commercial vehicles, taxis and private hire vehicles that are subject to a finance agreement;
  • Commercial vehicles that are registered to a business address within the Clean Air Zone, up to a maximum of two vehicles per company;
  • Community transport vehicles; and
  • Wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire vehicles.

Vehicles that are awaiting retrofit would be allowed a one-year exemption and vehicles that have a unique status or are impossible to upgrade to required standards would be given a permanent exemption. These include:

  • Historic vehicles;
  • Military vehicles;
  • Vehicles that have been specially adapted, such as those modified under the Motability scheme, for use by disabled people;
  • Emergency services vehicles;
  • Agricultural and other specialist vehicles such as road rollers, gritters and snow ploughs;
  • Showmen’s vehicles;
  • Vintage buses; and
  • Motor caravans.

Full details of the grants and exemptions will be published following confirmation of funding by government.

Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, said: “When we consulted on our clean air proposals in 2019 it was clear that people and businesses wanted to see support in place for those affected and we are seeking to ensure that the government helps us to provide that support.

“We are asking for what we believe is a fair and reasonable level of funding to help businesses on Tyneside avoid Clean Air Zone charges and reduce their impact on our air quality and the environment, which has benefits for us all.”

Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council said: “It is a fact that those who are least responsible for creating pollution – older people, children and those with existing health problems – are more likely to suffer the harmful effects that pollution can cause. 

“It’s a serious problem, but by upgrading to cleaner vehicles, with appropriate levels of financial support, or choosing to use alternatives to the car, we can all do our bit to help protect everyone, especially those that are the most vulnerable.

“These plans will also have a positive impact on our wider environment by achieving a reduction in carbon emissions from vehicles, which supports our vision for a Net Zero city.”

The Clean Air Zone itself would cover Newcastle city centre, including the routes in via the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh Bridges, and is planned to be introduced in July 2022.

Non-compliant taxis and vans would be charged £12.50 per day to enter the zone while buses and HGVs that do not meet the required emissions standards would be charged £50 per day to enter the zone.

The plans have been developed using feedback from two public consultations that took place in 2019 and saw over 20,000 people have their say on the Clean Air Zone and support measures.

In response to feedback and based on further testing of CAZ options, councils agreed that private cars would not be charged but drivers are strongly encouraged to reduce car journeys wherever possible to help bring pollution levels and carbon emissions down.

Schemes to improve public transport, walking and cycling routes are continuing to be developed across Newcastle and Gateshead to help people choose to leave the car at home.

Cabinet members at both Newcastle and Gateshead councils will be asked to recommend the final plans for approval from both full councils to submit the final business case to government.

Gateshead’s Cabinet meeting is on Tuesday 14 September and Newcastle’s Cabinet meeting is on Monday 20 September.