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Newcastle city centre clean air toll charge a 'high economic risk'

image copyrightNCJ Media
image captionCouncils have been ordered to slash emissions levels by 2021

Businesses in Newcastle are warning introducing a toll on drivers coming into the city centre would cause "major and long-lasting economic damage".

Tolls of up to £3.40 on the three major road bridges across the River Tyne are one of three options under consultation in a bid to cut road pollution.

NE1, which represents hundreds of firms, is calling for "less drastic measures" to be implemented.

There are fears shoppers will instead go to the Metrocentre in Gateshead.

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils, say they are faced with a "public health crisis" caused by traffic pollution and must meet government clean air targets by 2021.

But city centre businesses say either option would cause them "massive damage", even though they "welcome the push" to improve Newcastle's environment.

image copyrightNewcastle City Council
image captionThere are plans for either a Clean Air Zone or Low Emission Zone in Newcastle City Centre

Analysis by Newcastle City Council has suggested the toll plans could damage the region's economy by £140m in five years, the Local Democracy Reporting Service says.

NE1 chief executive Adrian Waddell, told the council: "The business community recognises both the problem and opportunity and is able, willing and keen to help.

"We consider adoption of a modified plan, that may not initially be 100% compliant, yet which avoids the worst of the economic risks, has a better outcome at the end and wider buy-in from the business community is preferable to the drastic measures currently proposed, with their inherent high economic risks."

A spokesperson for the three councils said: "The air quality proposals we are considering are aimed at making our area cleaner, healthier and a more attractive place to live, work, visit and do business.

"We welcome the feedback from businesses in Newcastle city centre in relation to the proposals and this will be included in the independent analysis of the consultation responses."

A decision expected in the autumn.

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