OLDHAM’S Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups have welcomed the pause of the controversial Clean Air Zone scheme.

The roll-out of the scheme was paused on Tuesday following crunch talks amid growing public opposition.

In response to the pause, Royton North Councillor, Dave Arnott said: “I am encouraged that Mayor Andy Burnham has listened to public opinion and agreed to review the situation. Oldham Conservatives have opposed the charging plan since its conception.”

He added: “As small businesses and sole traders are struggling to get back on their feet after nearly two years of unprecedented disruption, this arbitrary tax is the last thing that they need. Even with the extremely generous support that the Government provided, this has been a very difficult time.

“I hope that common sense will prevail, and that Andy Burnham will think again and look to find a way that will address the issue of high emissions in some very specific areas of Greater Manchester, without simply “squeezing” the small businessman at a time when they can least afford it, by enforcing this region wide congestion charge. We will continue to campaign against the method, timing and scale of these proposals.”

Oldham's Liberal Democrats' group leader and transport spokesperson for Greater Manchester, Cllr Howard Sykes called for a pause to the Clean Air Zone on Tuesday and a ‘radical re-think’.

He added: “Failing to tackle air pollution is failing the thousands of people who are dying because of it every year. We need a clean air strategy that works, not a Mayor driving blind, and risking thousands of jobs in Oldham and across the region.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Sam Al-Hamdani meanwhile challenged Andy Burnham’s assertion to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority that the Clean Air Zone was not aimed at raising funds.

Referring to the Clean Air Zone charges, councillor Al-Hamdani said: “I believe that if the Labour-run local authorities were really committed to this not being a ‘stealth tax’, they would plough all of that money back into helping local businesses to thrive and be environmentally friendly at the same time.

“If that can’t be delivered, then this unfair implementation of a Clean Air Zone needs to be scrapped before another penny is wasted, and other ways found to cut air pollution.”