METRO Mayor Andy Burnham has ‘paused’ the funding roll out for the second phase of the controversial Clean Air Zone following crunch talks.

Due to launch in May, plans for the zone have caused a major stir since their conception.

The daily charge of between £7 and £60 was not due to apply to private cars, mopeds or motorbikes, but larger commercial vehicles such as vans or pickups, and taxis and private hire vehicles, unless the vehicle was no older than five years upon buying it.

The u-turn comes as a result of many voicing their discontent, epitomised by the protest by taxi drivers outside Bolton Town Hall on Monday. In a clear demonstration of feeling, drivers from all over the region caused a standstill in the town centre, beeping their horns. 

The Clean Air Zone scheme will still apply to HGVs, buses and out of region taxis from May.

But the 'funding draw down' for the second phase has been paused, until further negiotiations with the Government take place.

Bolton Council leader Cllr Martyn Cox, who was present at a combined authority meeting, said: “This could lead to its pausing for lighter goods vehicles and taxis, but with the exception of heavy good vehicles, buses and out-of-town taxis.

“We are happy they have taken this action but would have liked it to have gone further and for the Secretary of State to pause it, as that is not in our power. The combined authority wants to now sit down with the government to discuss the issues. Most people won’t be able to be compliant and we don’t want people to be penalised because they can’t afford to upgrade their vehicle.”

In a meeting of the authority’s housing, planning and environment overview and scrutiny committee, chaired by Cllr John Walsh, earlier in the day, Metro Mayor Andy Burnham said: “You could argue that, if nothing changes, the air quality isn’t going to improve in the way that it should, and inequalities are going to widen in Greater Manchester because our residents who have the least amount of money are going to have to pay charges.”

The air quality standards have been put in place by the government, and Mr Burnham was quick to explain compliance is not a choice He added: “We have to clean up the air because it’s the law of the land. It’s a framework that is now legally set, and it’s not possible, necessarily, for Greater Manchester to unilaterally change that.

“That is just a reality of the matter, and that explains why a number of Conservative MPs wrote to the Environment Secretary because that is where the decision lies.”

The final decision on the scheme lies with the Government.