Monthly report – October 2019

October 1, 2019

As the focus on improving Newcastle city centre’s air quality intensifies, councillors have extended a consultation period for businesses and the public to help finalise a new long-term carbon strategy

Newcastle’s business community and its public has been handed a final opportunity to shape a city centre clean air blueprint. Cabinet members at authorities in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead have extended a consultation process on a Clean Air Zone plan.

Under existing proposals, earmarked for introduction in 2021, overly polluting heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches would face a daily £50 charge to enter the city centre.

Vans and taxis failing to meet emission standards would face a £12.50 levy. Private cars would initially be exempt.

The tolls would spearhead a raft of work aimed at improving city transport links and their green credentials, with councillors assessing a number of measures.

The proposals include potential changes to the Central Motorway layout to prevent traffic merging on and off the slip lane between the New Bridge Street and Swan House junctions, and amendments to ensure more reliable running of public transport.

Smaller vehicle distribution hubs outside the charging zone – from where deliveries could be completed by electric vehicle or cargo bike – are also under consideration.

The make-up of a final plan is expected later this year. The councils’ approach has received praise from Adrian Waddell, chief executive of NE1 Ltd, which represents the business interests’ of 1400 companies in Newcastle city centre. He commended the councils’ receptivity to companies’ feedback, saying their understanding will be crucial in helping firms plan for the future.

He told North East Times: “The need to improve air quality is of paramount importance (and) the desire of businesses to see a compliant air quality solution and the opportunity to build and improve on this going forward was clear.

“We have been particularly impressed by the sheer scale of the councils’ consultation and the record response it generated.

“Officers have been enormously helpful in supporting NE1 to take the message to the business community and in turn have listened and responded to business feedback.

“It is extremely encouraging to see how the responses and issues raised have been incorporated into the proposals being developed.”

Matthew Stiller, managing director at Newton Aycliffe-based Stiller Warehousing and Distribution, said the business supports the councils’ plans. However, he raised caution over some firms’ ability to adapt their fleets within a short timeframe.

He said: “We have invested heavily to operate a very modern low-emissions fleet of vehicles and are supportive of urban clean air initiatives.

“However, we believe the emissions standards required should be consistent across all schemes in the UK.

“Additionally, more specialist vehicle operators, such as municipal waste and chilled food delivery, may struggle to meet requirements in time as these vehicle types typically have longer replacement cycles.”

Speaking about the need to make amendments to air quality, Councillor Arlene Ainsley, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for transport and air quality, said the three authorities are committed to finding a workable solution.

“We’ve developed a package of measures to address many of the issues the public and businesses raised,” she said.

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