‘Pay or give up’: fears over plans to charge owners to visit their animals under clean-air rules

  • Concerns have been raised that clean air proposals could affect animal welfare if owners have to pay daily charges to check on them.

    In October 2020 H&H reported on plans announced by Transport for Greater Manchester to introduce a clean air zone in Greater Manchester, which was followed by an eight-week public consultation. In July 2021 plans were finalised and put to the area’s 10 local authorities for approval.

    Under the plans, from May 2022 non-compliant vehicles – including horseboxes – over 3.5tonnes must pay £60 per day to drive in the zone, but a discounted rate of £10 is available for vehicles that are privately owned. After 1 June 2023, non-compliant vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, including some small vans and flatbed trucks must pay £10 per day.

    Bury-based Jade Hutchinson, who owns two horses and a small flock of sheep, told H&H under the proposals she will need to pay £10 per day to visit her animals in Bolton using her pick-up truck, her only vehicle, and she could have to give up her animals as she would not be able to afford to check them daily.

    “If I had to pay £10 a day just to check on my animals it would devastate everything. We’d have no choice but to pay it – or give up. Lots of people don’t realise how many vehicles will be affected,” she said.

    “There’s other ways to tackle air pollution without penalising people. It’s going to cause disruption to so many lives and it’s just not going to be manageable.”

    To raise awareness of the impact of the proposals on farmers and animal owners – and to show that using public transport is not a feasible option for many – Jade took one of her sheep, Colin, on a bus and was joined by Rebecca Kay with her Shetland pony Ernie, on 11 January.

    Credit: Andrew Clutterbuck

    “I put a post about what I was going to do on the “Rethink the Clean Air Zone — Great Manchester” Facebook group. The first bus didn’t stop, but then an operator arrived by car and said the bus company was happy to support us and that they were going to send an empty bus for us. We were joined on the bus by other supporters who had turned up,” said Jade.

    “I can’t believe how much attention it’s brought to the matter. I’ve been doing interviews with local radio stations to keep trying to raise awareness and the Facebook group, run by an admin team, have been speaking to councillors to campaign against the zone.”

    A spokesman for the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) told H&H they would not comment on the Jade’s campaigning or specific concerns, but on 13 January TfGM said the Greater Manchester’s clean air leaders will be asked to seek the Government’s permission to put the second phase of clean air zone funding on hold and ask for an “urgent and fundamental” review of the policy, including the availability and affordability of cleaner vehicles.

    “A report to the Greater Manchester air quality administration committee on Thursday (20 January) will set out emerging evidence that global supply chain issues could increase the costs and reduce availability of cleaner vehicles,” said the spokesman.

    “More work is needed to understand whether this could create significant financial hardship for commercial vehicle users – already facing fuel and cost of living increases on top of the impact of the pandemic. What this means for Greater Manchester local authorities, and its impact on their ability to comply on time with a legal direction from Government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, is also to be determined.”

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