PMQs: PM says Clean Air Zone is ‘unworkable’

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The Tyneside Clean Air Zone launched in October 2022, with cameras in operation and signage around Newcastle and Gateshead. However, motorists in the area haven’t had to pay yet, with charges only being introduced next week, on January 30, 2023.

Charging will be introduced in two phases – with non-compliant taxis, private hire vehicles, buses, coaches and HGVs being charged from January 30.

Taxis and private hire vehicle drivers will be charged £12.50 per day if their vehicle doesn’t meet emissions standards. 

Drivers whose vehicles are registered in Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside can apply for a discount charge of £50 for each seven day period rather than £12.50 per day.

Drivers of buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards will be charged £50 a day to use their vehicles in the Newcastle Clean Air Zone. 

Grants are available to bring vehicles up to emissions standards, with many businesses taking advantage of the scheme.

To meet emissions standards, taxis must have a Euro 6 diesel or Euro 4 petrol engine. 

In general, these will be diesel vehicles registered after September 2015 and petrol vehicles registered after 2005.

Councillor Jane Byrne, cabinet member for connected city at Newcastle City Council, praised the zone, saying it would help reduce emissions around the area.

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She said: “There’s not long to go before the launch of the Clean Air Zone and we’re reminding people who are affected, if they haven’t done so already, to find out about the support available to help them upgrade to a cleaner vehicle with lower emissions.

“This will reduce the number of older, more polluting vehicles on our roads, helping to improve our air quality and protect people’s health.”

Vans and light goods vehicles will not face charges until July 2023 to allow extra time for vehicle replacements, which are currently affected by a national supply shortage.

The exact date in July is still to be announced, with the council outlining there will be no need for drivers to apply for any exemption as it will be automatically applied.

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Early notice letters were sent to more than 3,500 vehicle owners in December.

These were mainly for taxi, bus, coach and HGV drivers whose vehicles don’t meet CAZ emissions standards.

As part of the monitoring, Clean Air Zone cameras identified 417,146 unique vehicles entering the zone, with the vast majority being compliant or exempt from charges. 

This includes vans, which are exempt until July 2023, and private cars which are not affected by the zone.

Councillor John McElroy, cabinet member for the environment and transport at Gateshead Council, added: “Not everyone will be charged to enter the Clean Air Zone.  From January 30, charges will apply only to older taxis, buses, coaches and HGVs that do not meet national emissions standards.

“We’re encouraging owners of those types of vehicle to check whether they are affected and take the necessary steps to get ready before the CAZ launches at the end of this month.”

Nick Kemp, leader of Newcastle City Council, spoke to BBC Radio Newcastle about the Clean Air Zone and how it would affect individuals and businesses in Tyneside. He said the Council had engaged with more than 20,000 people, to inform them of whether they will be penalised or not.

Mr Kemp added: “We have [faced] the criticism that this is a tax-raising scheme. It’s not. Money generated through fines will go towards running the scheme and road improvements. We can’t spend it elsewhere. We’ve been told, as have other cities across the country, we have to cut air pollution.  More than 36,000 people die in the UK every year due to poor air quality. That includes hundreds on Tyneside. This is a move to address that.”

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