Gateshead Council have confirmed that cabinet meetings are to be held this month in a bid to seek the approval of councillors in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead to consult on proposals for a Clean Air Zone to be implemented in 2021.
Under the plans, private car drivers will not initially be subject to the charge. However, once public transport and mitigation measures have been agreed, the councils will consider introducing charges for polluting private vehicles at a future date.
Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils developed the revised proposals following consultation feedback, which highlighted concerns about the potential impact of charges in the first year on individuals, businesses and the local economy.
Councillors will be asked to agree the final package of measures, which includes:
A smaller charging Clean Air Zone covering only Newcastle City Centre affecting non-compliant buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles and vans from 2021.
Supporting measures, including grants and other help for people to upgrade vehicles, grace periods where some drivers would not be charged when measures are first introduced and exemptions for certain vehicles that would not be charged at all.
Councillor Arlene Ainsley, Cabinet Member for Transport and Air Quality, said: "Simply charging everyone for driving into Newcastle city centre or over our bridges isn't going to clean up air quality on its own. That's why we've developed a package of measures to address many of the issues the public and businesses raised with us during our first consultation.
"It's a very uncertain time for the country's economy for a lot of reasons and we're trying to avoid adding disruption to our local economy just to satisfy a narrow focus from government that we've consistently argued isn't comprehensive in what it's trying to achieve.
"Our proposals include targeting the heaviest single vehicle polluters first, such as old buses and large HGVs. Our proposals to government include mitigation and grant provision to upgrade or replace old dirty vehicles to more compliant models as well as ways of making bus services more affordable and practical for everyone.
"At the same time, we want to improve our key roads and reduce congestion to keep traffic moving and prioritise public transport. We're trying to take the opportunity to do essential works to the Tyne Bridge, subject to government funding. This will play a key role in not only addressing air quality but ensuring the public recognise we are joined up in our approach."
Councillor Carl Johnson, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at North Tyneside Council, said: "We are committed to working together to tackle air quality in our region and have developed a package of measures to help us do this. However, as local authorities we can't do this on our own and need a firm support from government on mitigation funding to make this happen.
"We need to support businesses and public transport operators in making the shift to cleaner, greener vehicles as well as looking at the affordability of public transport as this will be key to cleaning up our air."
The charges that are proposed for vehicles that do not meet emissions standards are as follows:
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