Tyne & Wear

Newcastle and Gateshead clean air toll plans face rethink

Tyne Bridge Image copyright NCJ Media
Image caption Councils have been ordered to slash emissions levels by 2021

Plans to impose a clean air toll on Tyneside's roads could be watered down after thousands of people objected.

Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead councils were considering hitting high-polluting vehicles with a £12.50 daily fee to drive into town.

They were also considering charging drivers up to £3.40 to cross bridges over the River Tyne.

The councils are now considering lower fees after a public backlash.

Half of the 19,000 people who gave feedback were opposed to both options.

The government has given the councils until 12 November to submit a final plan.

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

The three councils said they were faced with a "public health crisis" caused by traffic pollution and must meet government clean air targets by 2021.

'Lowest income'

The councils said 52% of respondents rejected the idea of a Clean Air Zone, in which the highest-polluting vehicles would be hit with a £12.50 daily fee to drive in central Newcastle and Gateshead.

And another option of a £1.70 toll on the Tyne, Swing, and Redheugh bridges was rejected by 62% of respondents.

An independent report into the consultation concluded that residents said the tolls would "wound those on the lowest incomes with non-compliant vehicles, making unavoidable journeys to work".

Local authority chiefs are now considering changing the boundaries of the charging zone, reducing the fees, and making more vehicles exempt.

Councillor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said: "We still have further work to do to determine the measures for dealing with this serious public health issue. 

"It's clear from the consultation that people have strong views about what the priorities and major challenges are."

Image copyright Newcastle City Council
Image caption There are plans for either a Clean Air Zone or Low Emission Zone in Newcastle City Centre

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