CAMPAIGNERS and business representatives have welcomed a potential 'pause' for the Clean Air Zone - but an environmental expert has expressed his dismay.

Combined authority chief executive, Eamonn Boylan says plans for the CAZ could be delayed for some commercial vehicles but not for others.

Taxi firms and businesses using smaller commercial vehicles have welcomed the announcement but those requiring the use of larger vehicles, likes coaches and HGVs, are still aggrieved.

Robert Downes, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) development manager for Greater Manchester, said: “We are pleased to see business sentiment is at last being listened to by decision makers within the GMCA, but what they have proposed amounts to precious little and doesn’t go nearly far enough.

“In one breath the GMCA acknowledges there are global supply chain issues preventing business updating their vehicles, and inadequate state funding for businesses to mitigate the costs. But in the next, they commit to ploughing ahead with charging for HGVs, buses and coaches starting, as was always planned, on May 30."

He called for a general pause for all vehicles, based on the issues still faced.

Campaign group RethinkGM echoed the FSB’s calls for GMCA to change the plans.

An official said: “We have a duty to ensure; at this time of crisis, where inflation is high, energy costs have risen to previously unheard-of levels, taxation has grown, and our lives have been hit by the Covid pandemic; that no more financial ruin is forced onto the residents of our area.”

The group has also questioned the authority's modelling data, amid changing working patterns and unemployment.

But Dr Ron Chan, lecturer in environmental economics at the University of Manchester, said: "The calls to delay the rollout of the CAZ in Greater Manchester are disappointing. It’s a clear sign Greater Manchester’s leaders are not prioritising air pollution as an issue, and are failing to acknowledge the wider economic ramifications it can lead to.

“Air pollution has been linked to seismic health costs, which can result from premature mortality and higher rates of hospitalisation. The NHS is under immense pressure in many UK cities, and the effects of pollution will only exacerbate treatment delays and add to lengthening waiting lists. Its effects can also often spill over to other health problems.

“Should the government concede to the GMCA's request, there will be a significant impact to the local economy. Added to the obvious health concerns, evidence suggests air pollution also affects the cognitive functions and productivity of workers, which will understandably hinder economic recovery and growth in the region.

“It will also inevitably slow down the reduction of carbon emissions, by reducing the incentives for companies and small businesses to replace their vehicle fleet if it is ageing.

“It’s true the challenges surrounding global supply chains are adversely affecting the availability of green vehicles, so GMCA’s concerns are understandable. However, it’s clear the current subsidies are inadequate, and the project is underfunded. It’s vital more is done to incentivise businesses to update their vehicles to cleaner models, and to prepare them for any disruptions they encounter as they make the switch.

“If the rollout is paused, GMCA should focus on accelerating the delivery of its public transportation plan, including the expansion of the Metrolink network, improvements to bus frequency and reliability, and zonal pricing to make public transportation more accessible to the public.

“This would particularly help those on a lower income who rely on public transport to reduce the use of private-use vehicles, while incentivising further investment into the region.”