Bolton residents and businesses have until December 2 to have their say on ambitious new plans to improve air quality in the borough.
Proposals to introduce a Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester in 2022 will see the most polluting commercial vehicles charged for driving on local roads.
Meanwhile, new minimum standards for taxis and private hire vehicles are being put forward with the aim of making journeys safer and more reliable.
Consultations on both sets of proposals are currently underway, and Bolton Council is urging people to give their views.
Bolton Council Executive cabinet member for regulatory services, Cllr Hilary Fairclough, said: “Plans for a Clean Air Zone are aimed at bringing down pollution levels in our communities – something we all have a stake in.
“I would urge everyone, whether you drive a commercial vehicle which might be affected, or if you have concerns about local air quality, to share your views.
“A package of support is being developed to help affected businesses to switch to cleaner vehicles. We will be pressing government for as much support as possible to help our business community to adapt – but it’s vital firms understand what’s being proposed and let us know what they think.”
Government has directed Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities to introduce a Category C* Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to bring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution levels on local roads within legal limits in the shortest time possible.
The consultation is asking residents for their views on key elements of the Zone, including its proposed boundary, daily charges, discounts and exemptions, as well as funding packages to support local businesses to upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
The first non-compliant commercial vehicles would start paying the proposed daily charge when the Zone launches in spring 2022. Vans and minibuses would start paying in 2023; while private cars and motorbikes would not have to pay the charge.
Minimum Licensing Standards for taxis and private hire vehicles would cover drivers, operators and vehicles, and local licensing authorities**. The standards are designed to make sure every journey is safer and more reliable, and to help secure the trade’s long-term future.
It would mean common standards across Greater Manchester on criminal records and medical checks, while drivers would have to take a local knowledge test and demonstrate English language proficiency. Polluting older vehicles would also be barred from operating as taxis or private hire vehicles.
Cllr Fairclough added: “The taxi and private hire trade in Bolton provide an important service to our residents, especially people who don’t own a car or who can’t access the public transport network.
“The trade is also vital to our local economy – underpinning the livelihoods of thousands of drivers across the borough, as well as our local operators.
“Whether you drive or operate a taxi or private hire vehicle, or whether you use one to get around, it’s important that you have your say on these proposals. The proposed standards are aimed at ensuring every journey is safer and more reliable for those who live and work in Bolton, and that people can travel in vehicles which meet high environmental standards – so please let us know what you think.”
Transport for Greater Manchester is co-ordinating the Clean Air and Minimum Licensing Standards consultations on behalf of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities. The findings from the consultation will be used to inform the final proposals next year.
For more information and to complete the consultation questionnaires, visit cleanairgm.com and gmtaxistandards.com. For support to respond to these consultations or to request copies of the summary documents and questionnaires, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or phone 0161 244 1100. Support for non-English speakers is available on 0161 244 1100.
A series of webinars are also being run to help businesses and taxi drivers and operators find out more about the plans.
A webinar for taxi drivers takes place from 3-4pm on Wednesday 25 November. Sign up via: cleanairgm.com/taxi-events
Two webinars for businesses take place from 10-11am on Wednesday 18 November and from 4-5pm on Thursday 26 November. Sign up at: cleanairgm.com/business-events
* A Category C class Clean Air Zone includes non-compliant buses and coaches, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) or vans, minibuses, taxis and private hire A
** Standards would cover drivers, operators and vehicles, and go further and greener than the government’s new standards for the sector by including a step-by-step pathway to reducing harmful emissions from taxis and private hire vehicles.