THE ‘stick’ of a clean air charge to force drivers to upgrade to less polluting vehicles is not the way to address the problem, Bolton’s environment chief has warned.

Cllr Nick Peel was speaking after it emerged that Greater Manchester had been discussing the possibility of introducing a charge for motorists to enter the regions most polluted areas.

And while this is understood to mainly apply to Manchester City Centre, it could also apply to Bolton, where the areas in the south of the borough, close to the M60 and M61 motorways are believed to be the worst affected.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is set to launch a public consultation in the near future to gather opinions of people across the city region.

The problem of illegally high levels of air pollution is not confined to the north west – the UK government was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May over its failure to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, having been given a final warning by the European Commission at the beginning of the year.

The ECJ has the power to impose huge fines on countries who do not take rapid steps to address the problem.

And Cllr Peel says Bolton could potentially come under pressure to introduce clean-air zones, as a result of the failure to tackle illegally high levels of nitrogen dioxide in most urban areas.

He said: “We don’t know what will happen yet, there are a number of options being looked at.

“But the problem is the government is being sued because it’s failing to hit it’s failing to hit its pollution target so is passing the buck down to the local authorities and telling them to consider various forms of charging.”

However, Cllr Peel says that Greater Manchester’s ten leaders believe the onus should be on the government to take a national lead and set out a strategy for bringing down on vehicle pollutants.

In 2009 the government introduced a scrappage scheme, under which motorists were paid £1,000 to encourage them to by a new car, as part of attempts to galvanise the economy following the banking crisis.

And Cllr Peel believes a similar scheme would provide the impetus for drivers to upgrade to cleaner vehicles as a solution to the scourge of nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are believed to kill around 40,000 people every year.

He said: “We would want to see a national scrappage scheme, that would be a solution that would cut down on harmful emissions.

“Their idea is that if you have some kind of polluting vehicle, be it an HGV or a private car then having to pay would be the ‘stick’ to upgrade your car, while I think the best solution is the ‘carrot’ – financial incentives to upgrade your polluting car.”