TWO Oldham businesses have spoken out about how rocketing bills including petrol and diesel costs are hitting them – while the uncertainty of the region’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) remains on the horizon.
Businesses are “breathing a temporary sigh of relief” after Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham pushed back the rollout of the CAZ, originally set for May 30, following a large backlash from firms.
The change would have meant some commercial vehicles, which exceed air quality standards, would have been included.
A sign showing when the clean air zone was scheduled to be introduced
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) said the government agreed with the region that the original plan for clean air was “unworkable” to meet legal emission limits by the deadline of 2024.
TfGM added it was also agreed that it could have “created financial hardship for local people due to changes in the availability and affordability of cleaner vehicles”.
Greater Manchester leaders will now work with the government to design a “substantially different” scheme that could come into force as soon as July.
Furniture component manufacturer and supplier, Hill’s Panel Products (HPP) Ltd, based on Scottfield Road in Oldham, estimates the original scheme would have cost the business almost £80,000 a year without tackling the compliance status of its 20-plus strong HGV fleet.
A HPP vehicle
The company is still pressing ahead with an investment of almost £1m in new vehicles to meet any future CAZ criteria though.
HPP’s marketing and business development director, Dan Mounsey, said: “Although the Manchester scheme has been put on hold, it’s only a matter of time before a clean air zone of some description is introduced.
“We are already working around clean air zones in other parts of the country.
“Whatever is implemented in Greater Manchester, the charges will not only apply to our HGVs leaving our site but to all the wagons delivering to us too.
“We also have a huge customer base of sole traders, such as kitchen and bedroom fitters, and smaller retailers and the charges will apply to their vans and smaller trucks.”
HPP customer Fineline Kitchens, Bedrooms and Home Studies, which has a showroom on Waddington Street in Chadderton, would have been faced with replacing three non-compliant vehicles in its four-strong van fleet at a cost of up to £130,000, or facing charges of about £7,500 per year.
Fineline Kitchens, Bedrooms and Home Studies’ showroom on Waddington Street in Chadderton (Picture: Google Maps)
Fineline MD Mike Jackson said: “When you look at it, that’s 75 per cent of our fleet that potentially needs changing.
“But we don’t run old, un-serviced vehicles. Ours are all low mileage and well maintained.
“Yes, one of our vans is six years old, but its mileage is probably typical of a two-year-old vehicle.
“It’s not just a case of part-exchanging them either, you have to add another £1,000, at least, per vehicle to have them liveried.
“The extra cost from a clean air zone would’ve come on top of everything else.
“We can’t keep up with charges.
“Last year, timber-based products went up on average by 35 per cent, our gas bill is up by 50 per cent – we have 12,000 square feet here in Oldham, so that means an extra £4,000 over the year at least, and then we have the same at our Warrington showroom.
“We are left with no option but to pass those increased costs on to customers.”
HPP director Andy Evans is predicting implications far beyond pressure on prices.
He said: “There’s going to be a flood of Euro 5 vehicles coming through in the next 18 to 24 months and people have been saying we are just pushing this problem to other countries where there are no clean air zones.
“On a global scheme, we are not eliminating the problem, we are just shifting it on.
“Say, for example, they went to third world countries it will extend the problem because these vehicles will be run for a lot longer than they would’ve done if they’d remained in the UK, where they’re likely to get scrapped at 15 years.
“In other countries, they might be used for 20 to 25 years.”
A government spokesman added: “Decisions around the introduction of clean air zones remain the responsibility of local councils, in consultation with residents and local businesses.”