PLANS for a new 'tax' on older commercial diesel vehicles could spell the end for many smaller firms in Bolton, according to a campaigning group.

Bosses at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Greater Manchester are calling for serious revisions to proposals by Mayor Andy Burnham for new Clear Air Zones (CAZ).

They fear many small and medium-sized enterprises remain unaware of the scheme, which could see penalties of £100 per day levied on larger vehicles.

If the plans, set to be rolled out in less than 18 months time, FSB officials claim some companies may shut and others could be forced to reduce staff numbers.

Robert Downes, FSB development manager for Greater Manchester, said: "Most businesses would agree with the principle of cleaner air in Greater Manchester.

"But any regulatory changes to get us there need to be very carefully thought through so as to minimise the impact - no business should be forced to go under or anyone lose their job.

"The current proposals are just not there yet, and there needs to be some major revisions to how this scheme is rolled out – starting with the timeframe."

In their formal response to the Transport for Greater Manchester consultation on CAZs, the FSB is also urging councils to adopt a 'case-by-case' approach, for those most seriously affected. The payment scheme suggested also requires a major overhaul, the FSB insists.

Mr Downes added: "The official proposals for the CAZ were only officially announced in January, and our research suggests there are a lot of businesses still totally unaware of what’s actually already on the horizon. It’s clear the authorities need to do much more to get the message out.

"And even for those businesses that are aware, they're saying they’ve not being given enough time to plan ahead. HGV tractor units cost around £80k to replace, coaches can be up to £300k - these are not items that businesses can replace at the drop of a hat."