The local authority has asked for road exemptions and support for its bus providers, in response to a consultation on Greater Manchester’s proposed Clean Air Zone.
The zone, to be introduced across Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs from spring 2022, is to be introduced as Government seeks to improve urban air quality by imposing daily charges on commercial vehicles falling below emissions standards.
Cheshire East, which shares several key routes with Stockport and Manchester itself, said that the scale of the scheme is “disproportionate to the problem,” asking that “the spatial extent” be more closely defined around problem areas.
Noting that the intention is for the under-construction Poynton bypass to be exempted, the council asked that the whole of the airport relief road be similarly treated, allowing local businesses “toll-free” access to Manchester Airport. The council also wants what it calls the Woodford peninsula to be cut from the CAZ map.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority has said that a funding support programme will be brought in to encourage owners of older vehicles to upgrade – there is a Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund of up to £98m, covering vehicles including coaches and trucks; a Clean Taxi Fund of £28m; and a Clean Bus Fund of £25m.
Daily charges are proposed at £60 for large vehicles such as lorries and buses and £7.50 for taxis.
It is the financials that Cheshire East described as its key concern. The council said: “We believe that a wide range of self-employed, sole traders and small businesses based in Cheshire East are most likely to be adversely affected, especially where a considerable amount of their activities are located in Greater Manchester.
“We are concerned that the scheme and the incentive mechanisms, as proposed, could lead to barriers to competition between businesses based in Greater Manchester compared to similar businesses in Cheshire East. Such effects would be both undesirable and anti-competitive.”
Clean Air Zones are a policy driven by central Government, with the larger regional cities asked to come up with solutions. Bristol had intended to introduce a charging CAZ in 2020, but pulled back as air quality improved during lockdown: it has now re-consulted on two options for its zone.
Cheshire East’s deputy leader Cllr Craig Browne said: “We have welcomed this consultation and engaged positively with it. Because of this positive engagement, we now have a proposal to exclude the A555 from the CAZ and an acknowledgement that bus operators based within Cheshire East will be able to access Cleaner Bus Fund support, provided they are delivering a cross-border service.
“We have also brought to Greater Manchester’s attention the potential impact on Cheshire East-registered taxi drivers, due to the inclusion of Manchester Airport within the CAZ.
“Discussions with Andy Burnham have been very positive and we have a good working relationship.”