THERE will be no decision on where or how a new clean air toll will be imposed on city road until this autumn, it has been revealed.

A massive consultation on the controversial plans, which could see drivers charged for crossing the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, closed last Sunday with a record-breaking 19,000 public responses.

But council bosses in Newcastle, Gateshead, and North Tyneside – who have been ordered by the government to cut dangerous air pollution levels by 2021 – have confirmed that they will not make a decision on the proposed tolls for several months.

That is despite the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warning earlier this year that the authorities could face legal action if they did not produce a final plan by July 12, a deadline which the government says is “currently under review”.

The councils have stressed, however, that whatever pollution-cutting measures they choose to implement are still on course to be in place on January 1, 2021.

A spokesperson for the three local authorities said: “Our work to develop and implement measures for improving air quality is continuing in line with the government’s legal directive.

“The feedback we received during the recent consultation exercise, which attracted a record number of responses, is now being independently analysed – a process that will take several weeks.

“Following this we will then need time to look at the independent consultation report, together with the modelling data we have gathered, in order to reach a decision on the final proposals.

“We expect this to be finalised during the autumn and we remain on target to implement measures in line with the timescale set by the government.

“We are in regular contact with government throughout this process so they are kept up to date on our progress.”

Originally, the government had told the councils to come up with a plan by the end of December 2018 – but the authorities took until February to reveal two competing ideas that went out to consultation.

The options are either a large Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in which only the highest-polluting vehicles would be charged a daily fee of £12.50; or a £1.70 toll on the three central bridges across the Tyne that would affect most drivers, plus a ban on high-polluting buses, taxis, and lorries from Newcastle city centre.

A Defra spokesman reiterated that the councils will be legally obliged to implement whatever toll is proven to deliver compliance with emissions standards as soon as possible.