Plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Newcastle and Gateshead are to be postponed, with the councils giving people and businesses more time to access financial support.
The two councils have initiated discussions with government officials to agree a revised timeline for the launch of the CAZ, responding to concerns from both drivers and firms.
Cllr Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said: “It took significantly longer than we expected to receive final government approval for our plans, along with confirmation of how much funding they would provide for vehicle upgrade grants.
“This has had an inevitable impact on the time available for us to promote the grants scheme, and for businesses and drivers to access funding and get compliant.
“As we have previously said, our main concern is to improve air quality and a huge amount of work on behalf of councils and government has been focused on transport changes that promote more active and sustainable ways of getting around.
“It’s also important that we ensure that affected drivers and businesses are given a fair opportunity to prepare and, where possible, take steps that will avoid them having to pay CAZ charges.”
The zone was due to cover most of Newcastle city centre along with routes over the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh bridges and would affect taxis, vans, buses, coaches and HGVs that don’t meet national emissions standards.
Charges for non-compliant vehicles to enter the zone were due to be introduced from July this year but, given the proposals Newcastle and Gateshead councils submitted in October 2021 weren’t approved until April 2022, it has been agreed to put back this date to give those affected more time to prepare.
Confirmation that the introduction of the CAZ will be postponed has been welcomed by business leaders, who said this would come as a relief to sole traders and companies already facing increasing costs.
John McCabe, chair of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “Good businesses in the region will support the need for clean air improvements but the process needs to be fair. Our members need time to prepare for any changes, especially with increasing business costs.”
Newcastle isn’t the only council to postpone the introduction of a CAZ, 18 others have delayed, shelved or scraped plans. In the March issue of CiTTi, three local authorities explained why…