Tyneside Councils miss Clean Air Deadline again

Libby Prescott reports as the councils of Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside miss another air pollution deadline.

Libby Prescott
21st October 2019
Image: Bill Henderson at Geograph
Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils will miss the government’s deadline to finalise plans to reduce illegal levels of air pollution. This will be the third time the deadline has been missed, following previous missed deadlines in July 2019 and December 2018.

A six-week public consultation on the latest plans began on the 14th October and so will end on the 25th November. However the deadline to submit their final designs for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is 12th November.

The councils say the hold ups are due to delays in legal advice, but ministers have threatened legal action against the three councils if their final designs are not submitted by the date.

There has been much criticism on the delays. Following the previous deadline extension, former environmental secretary, Therese Coffey, warned that further delays would be ‘unacceptable’. Newcastle Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone, also criticised the delay, calling it ‘another embarrassing shambles’.

"They seem incapable of bringing forward plans by the November deadline, and it not obvious their approach is going to be legally compliant."

He continued, "This new delay is further evidence that the Labour administration has lost its way on the clean air agenda and on city transport policy generally. It is increasingly difficult to have confidence that the cabinet member and her officers have a grip of the situation. They seem incapable of bringing forward plans by the November deadline, and it not obvious their approach is going to be legally compliant."

The authorities insist that the delays will not impact the anti-pollution tolls, which are set to be introduced in January 2021.

A council spokesperson stated, "We remain on target to meet the implementation date of 2021 for our clean air proposals"

"We are in regular contact with government officials and they are fully updated on our plans and the progress we are making."

"We will shortly be starting consultation on our final proposals, which will be submitted to government later this year."

The Clean Air Zone is designed to tackle dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution by  2021. Under the latest proposals, high-polluting buses, coaches and lorries will be charged £50 daily to get into Newcastle city centre, and taxis and vans, which do not meet emissions standards, will pay £12.50. Private vehicles are currently exempt from any toll charges.

Air pollution is linked to more than 300 deaths on the Tyneside every year; and according to a study by Friends of the Earth in February, Newcastle accounted for six of the 10 worst sites for air pollution in the North East.

The government has issued the three councils with an order to clean up emissions’ hot spots by 2021, increasing the pressure to finally achieve the goal of clean air.

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