Air quality in our cities is officially improving; in fact, nitrogen dioxide emissions fell by almost 70% between 1970 and 2015 in the UK*. But there is still work to be done.  Currently, the government is implementing a variety of air quality schemes across the UK, including an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London and Clean Air Zones (CAZ) in several cities, in a bid to drive further improvements. Greater Manchester is one of the cities mandated by the government to introduce a CAZ; Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, recently announced his plans to push forward with proposals for a Zone.

The Mayor’s proposal for a CAZ would impose a charge on any commercial vehicle entering the city which does not meet the highest environmental standards. This would apply to buses, coaches, taxis, lorries and vans, as well as some private cars registered outside the area. It would not apply to private cars registered in Greater Manchester, as Andy Burnham explained during the proposal launch,   80 per cent of these cars are already compliant and we believe that restrictions on the remaining 20 per cent would be neither progressive nor proportionate. 

According to FTA, the business organisation representing the logistics sector, the Mayor’s proposed CAZ would significantly increase running costs for local businesses, while failing to provide the most effective long-term solution to improving air quality. While the logistics sector is fully committed to reducing vehicle emissions wherever possible, and acknowledges the role the industry must play in improving the air quality of our cities, it is essential that any air quality scheme for   Greater Manchester is developed with the needs of local businesses in mind. A CAZ would cause operating costs for small businesses to soar, unfairly penalising the hard-working companies and individuals that keep Greater Manchester’s economy thriving, while ignoring other contributors to emissions levels across the city.

CAZs are not the only method available to drive air quality improvements: Nottingham City Council successfully presented its case to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy. FTA is calling upon Greater Manchester to follow suit, and carefully evaluate whether a CAZ truly is the best option for the businesses which keep the city’s vibrant economy buoyant.  

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

Malcolm Bingham, Head of Policy for North of England, FTA 

 * National Statistics (2016) Emissions of air pollutants in the UK