All 10 boroughs across Greater Manchester unanimously voted against the proposals to bring in a peak-time £5-a-day charge for drivers entering the city centre.
Manchester City Council has blamed the credit crunch for the no vote following a city-wide referendum, meaning Manchester will not benefit from a £1.5 billion cash injection from the government’s congestion-busting the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).
Council leader Richard Leese said: ‘The referendum has given a very clear outcome. I'm sure the economic downturn, which is hitting everyone hard, has had a part to play.’
The decision has been branded a ‘green’ disaster by David Dernie, the current head of Manchester’s School of Architecture. He said: ‘It’s a swift step back into the 19th century in terms of environmental thinking.’
Simon Green, of Hurd Rolland and the president of the Manchester Society of Architects, agreed: ‘Rejection of the congestion charge is a wasted opportunity for Manchester. The future of the city region relies on the sustainable development of its transport routes. Let's hope the city fathers have a back-up plan for the regions future transport.’
Meanwhile a disappointed Peter Smith, leader of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), said he expected the resources now to be re-allocated elsewhere in the country, including London.
He said: ‘Businesses will now have to accept that rising congestion on the roads is a cost they will have to bear and factor this into their plans.
‘While we will of course respect the outcome of the vote, I am personally saddened for all those who deserve the best quality public transport, lower bus fares and a safer and cleaner environment to travel across Greater Manchester which would have been delivered by the unprecedented level of investment.'
One of Manchester's leading engineers, Martin Stockley of Martin Stockley Associates, added: 'It is no great surprise. It was always a mistake to offer a vote on a complex issue like this. We elect politicians to get on and make these complex decisions and that is what they should do. No electorate that I know of has ever voted directly in favour of a congestion charge.
'It is particularly worrying to see major private companies like Peel Holdings having such an influence over a major issue like this. We can at least vote out politicians if we don’t like what they have done.
'It is a shame because there is a real need for a visionary and ambitious approach to addressing the chronic problem of how we move to, from and around our cities. I hope the city will now canvas a wider view to generate ideas for Plan B. In Manchester we have some of the best creative minds in the country and we should be calling on them now to help move this forward.'