HOTSPOT: Pollution worries for outer west of Newcastle
Jason Smith, leader of the Newcastle Independents, Image: Jason Smith
The outer west of Newcastle could become the city’s new pollution hotspot once new emissions tolls come into force, councillors fear.
A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is due to launch in the city centre next summer, meaning that some of the most high-polluting vehicles on the roads will be charged up to £50 per day to drive through the heart of Newcastle.
The maximum toll will apply to older lorries, buses, and coaches that do not meet emissions standards, while non-compliant taxis and vans also face daily fees of £12.50 from next July – though all private cars will be exempt.
While the CAZ is being brought in to cut illegal emissions levels in the city centre, councillors on the outskirts of Newcastle fear that residents in their areas could soon be left with a worsening pollutants problem if drivers choose to divert towards the A1 in order to avoid the charging zone.
Newcastle Independents councillor Ian Donaldson, who represents Callerton and Throckley, said: “While I support the aims of the Clean Air Zone, we have seen that changes to roads in Gateshead have pushed more traffic onto alternative routes including the A1.
“Where the city centre is not the final destination, a tariff to pass through the Clean Air Zone is sufficient to push heavily polluting vehicles onto other routes.
“I could give numerous examples of journeys from Gateshead and South Tyneside and further afield that are likely to re-route north via the A1 resulting in more nitrogen dioxide being emitted on a longer journey through a different part of the city.”
Coun Donaldson added that roads in the outer west could become even more clogged by the influx of major new housing developments coming to the area and that he feared air quality becoming “significantly worse”.
Newcastle Independents leader and Lemington councillor Jason Smith added: “I do not believe it is acceptable to put even more dangerous emissions into the air in areas bordering the A1, including in the ward I represent, to benefit other parts of the city.”
Coun Smith was unhappy that no members of his party or other independents in the outer west were chosen to speak during a debate on the Clean Air Zone at a city council meeting last week.
Labour councillor Clare Penny-Evans, the city council’s cabinet member for climate change, said that the final version of the CAZ would “minimise the risk of re-routing”, compared to earlier versions which would also have seen private cars charged.
She added: “It is possible that some commercial vehicles not starting or ending their journey within the CAZ may choose a different route to travel north or south of the city. Frankly though, traffic of this kind should be using major roads like the A1 or A19 that are designed for that purpose and not cutting through our city centre or neighbourhoods.”
Tyneside councils had also planned to halve the number of lanes on the Tyne Bridge in order to discourage car traffic alongside the introduction of the CAZ, but that plan was axed this summer.
Grants of up to £20,000 are expected to be available to help upgrade vehicles that would be subject to the tolls, but details of those are yet to be fully confirmed.
Coun Penny-Evans added: “We’ve consistently said that it’s disappointing that the scope the government have given us to work with only looked at one pollutant and didn’t require us to consider many other greenhouse gases. We are trying to deliver a suite of different measures through the many different funding streams we have to bid into in order to encourage people to use public transport more, or switch to active travel. This will help reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, helping reduce emissions and improve air quality and make everyone’s daily trips better.”
The CAZ had been due to start this year, but was pushed back amid delays caused by a High Court battle and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The toll zone will be in Newcastle city centre only, including the routes in over the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh bridges.
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Demcoracy Reporter
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