CONTROVERSIAL proposals to introduce a Clean Air Zone ­— which could see some motorists charged up to £100 a day to drive on Bolton’s streets ­— have been welcomed by a leading academic.

Mohammed Sadiq, an associate teaching professor at the University of Bolton’s Institute of Management, has labelled the plans an important first step in tackling the region’s lethal pollution levels.

Announced this week the zone would cover all 10 Greater Manchester local authority areas, and could slap high polluting buses, HGVs, taxis, private hire vehicles and vans with a daily charge.

Although Mr Sadiq admits that there will be economic consequences for businesses, he says these moves are critical to protect the public and make Greater Manchester a global competitor.

He also noted that he understands the reasons behind the methodology and exemption of private cars from the proposed penalty charge.

He said: “I think these plans are a first step and are targetting those which, I think, are the major polluters in the short-term, and which may have less impact on the public. It is a common sense approach to tackle the public and private sectors first and then drill down.”

“I think switching to electric vehicles is logical. Any kind of technology is going to make a difference, generating competitiveness, and making Bolton and Greater Manchester a better place to live,” he added.

Also suggested in the paper are schemes to help freight and logistics firms and bus and taxi operators make the switch to low-emission vehicles in the next two to four years.

However, this is contingent on a £116 million central government funding package.

Mr Sadiq conceded that the proposals will exert some commercial pressures on companies, but believed that Government financial intervention would ease the blow.

He said: “We do face some challenges in the short term, but that’s where the Government will step in, and we have seen this around the world.

“Any sort of change and attempt to reduce emissions will improve air quality and that’s what every great city in the world is trying to do.”

Mr Sadiq is now calling for people to get behind attempts to tackle pollution, saying that big changes will come from small steps which “start at home, at work and in our communities”.

“We all have a part to play in protecting our environment and we do face some challenges. However, Government intervention strategies should help alleviate some of the economic pressures faced by the public and private transport sector. Greater Manchester is a vibrant and great place to be. Driving up standards and reducing emissions will improve the region’s air quality and deliver a wold-class transport system.”