Tyne & Wear

Newcastle clean air plan 'falls apart' without government funds

Vehicles travelling across the Tyne Bridge into Newcastle and Gateshead Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Private cars will be exempt under the latest clean air zone proposals

Plans for a clean air toll in Newcastle city centre would fall apart if the government does not fund the scheme, the area's council leader has warned.

The proposals would see HGVs, buses and coaches charged £50 to enter the area from 2021 with taxis and vans paying £12.50.

However, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said he was "struggling" to get concrete promises from ministers.

The government said it had a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality.

Labour councillor Mr Forbes told a cabinet meeting on Monday it would be "incomprehensible" for ministers to demand anti-pollution action from the council but not fund measures such as grants to upgrade older taxis and lorries and number plate recognition cameras needed to enforce the clean air zone tolls.

"I am struggling to get time with ministers to actually talk about this and get agreements that they would fund the proposals we are putting forward," he said.

"If the government does not fund the mitigations we are looking for and does not put in place the national mitigation measures that they should have to, then frankly the whole basis of this falls apart."

Mr Forbes said the council was only imposing the toll because of a government directive to cut illegal levels of pollution by 2021, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The plans - a revised version of unpopular initial proposals - will be put out to a six-week public consultation and are due to be formally approved by the council in November.

Opponents of the scheme claim it would hit the poorest communities hardest because of a possible rise in bus fares caused by the tolls, and say the measures would encourage more people to drive.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said its £3.5bn plan "was supported by £495m to support local authorities to develop and implement required measures".

"We continue to engage with Tyneside to determine what funding can be put in place to support delivery and those impacted by local air quality plans," they said.

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