Tyne & Wear

Final Newcastle and Gateshead clean air plans unveiled

Traffic crossing the Tyne Bridge
Image caption Plans for tolls on the three central bridges across the River Tyne have been scrapped

Final proposals for a clean air toll on Tyneside have exempted cars and increased fees for HGVs.

Plans for a £12.50 daily fee to enter a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and £3.40 to cross River Tyne bridges have been scrapped after thousands of people objected.

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils have also reduced the CAZ.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said the new plans would "improve our air quality as quickly" as the previous options.

It could be achieved if they were implemented alongside a raft of other environmental upgrades, such as "delivery hubs" where goods could be dropped off and brought into the city centre on electric vehicles, he said.

People would get out of their cars if there were "credible alternatives in place", such as better walking and cycling infrastructure and cheaper and more reliable public transport, he added,

HGVs, buses and coaches would be charged £50 to enter Newcastle City Centre. Taxis and vans would have to pay £12.50.

Image copyright Newcastle City Council
Image caption The Clean Air Zone no longer includes the centre of Gateshead or Gosforth and Wallsend

The charges will only apply to older vehicles that do not meet emissions standards, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Private cars are exempt for now but the councils have not ruled out adding polluting cars to the CAZ in future.

Protestors from environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion marched through the city to get the council to take action on pollution.

Liz Sidebottom, from the group, said: "A lot of our emissions come from road transport and cycling is a good option for doing a short distance quickly and cheaply around the city, but people aren't going to do it if they don't feel safe."

Image caption Protesters from Extinction Rebellion took part in a go-slow, anti-pollution cycle demonstration from Gosforth to Newcastle's Civic Centre on Friday

The authorities amended their proposals after more than half of 19,000 people providing feedback objected.

Some residents said they viewed tolls as "financially wounding stealth tax, targeting those on the lowest incomes with non-compliant vehicles, making unavoidable journeys to work".

Taxi drivers and bus firms had warned the charges would lead to higher fares, while city centre businesses raised concerns about the impact on trade.

Image caption The councils claim the new plan will be just as effective as the hugely unpopular one announced earlier this year

The three authorities face legal action if they do not comply with a government order to cut air pollution by 2021.

The final proposals will be submitted to the government in November, after a six-week public consultation.

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