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Manchester needs an Ultra-Low Emission Zone to tackle illegal dirty air in the City Centre region

news release

On Clean Air Day, Manchester Friends of the Earth is calling on Manchester and Salford City Councils to introduce an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) within the Manchester/Salford Inner Ring Road area. (1)

Despite a significant reduction in road traffic during the Covid pandemic lock-downs in 2020, data obtained from Transport for Greater Manchester via a Freedom of Information request showed that 8 of the 16 Nitrogen Dioxide monitoring sites across Greater Manchester which were above the legal limit of 40 ug/m3 in 2020 were located within the Inner Ring Road area. (2)

For over 12 years, the United Kingdom government has failed to meet its legal obligations to reduce air pollution below the legal limits. In 2017, Client Earth won a court case that instructed the Government to meet the air quality limits in “the shortest time possible”. (3)

Air pollution is a public health emergency. In 2020, Asthma and Lung UK reported that Greater Manchester has “one of the highest rates in the country for emergency admissions in children with lower respiratory tract infections.” (4) and a 2018 report by King’s College estimated that air pollution costs Greater Manchester £1.2 billion a year (5).

Catherine Thomson, Manchester Friends of the Earth coordinator said: “Air pollution is a public health emergency.  In September, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) drastically reduced their guidance for limits on air pollution levels.

“Toxic air pollution causes over 1000 people to die early each year in Greater Manchester, and causes untold damage to the lungs of our children.

“How many more have to be harmed before our politicians stop making excuses and start taking action on this public health emergency?”

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London ULEZ reduced roadside NO2 by 36% in the first six months of operation. (6)

Manchester Friends of the Earth continues to support a Greater Manchester-wide charging clean air zone to tackle illegal dirty air wherever it is damaging people’s health and wellbeing.  The Clean Air Plan needs to tackle all polluting vehicles and make use of the most effective measures to reduce air pollution in the shortest time possible. 


Contacts for comment: Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth.Mobile: 07951 642858    email:

Notes for Editors

(1) In January 2020, Manchester City councillors unanimously supported the council motion to: “Explore the feasibility of an ultra-low emission zone inside the Manchester/Salford Inner Ring Road.”
See also

(2) The GM Clean Air Map does not display the 16 monitoring sites that were above the NO2 legal limit in 2020.  Manchester Friends of the Earth have mapped these sites on a Google Map.  Google Map link

(3)  the Court ordered that the Government had to:- aim to achieve compliance as soon as possible;- choose a route to compliance which reduces human exposure as quickly as  possible;
– ensure that compliance with the limit  values is not just possible but likely.  
– the determining consideration has to be the efficacy of the measure in question and not their cost.See

(4) Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation consultation response:Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan. December 2020 stated that:

“All ten Local Authority areas in the region have death rates of more than 4% each year that can be attributed to poor air quality4. From a lung disease perspective, the region has high rates of susceptibility to air pollution – in GM respiratory disease is second only to circulatory disease when it comes to unwarranted variation on total spend, bed occupancy and nonelective admissions5. Over 72,900 people are registered with chronic obstructive disease (COPD) and 217,230 people are registered with asthma.6 GM has one of the highest rates in the country for emergency admissions in children with lower respiratory tract infections.7 And as for adults with chronic obstructive disease, the picture is equally as stark. Some areas of GM have more than twice the national average emergency admissions and almost double the national mortality rate.”

(5) Atmosphere: Towards a proper strategy for tackling Greater Manchester’s air pollution crisis. The levels of air pollution in Greater Manchester are lethal and illegal.

(6) See

(7) Manchester Friends of the Earth is an award-winning environmental campaign group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on the group’s website: Manchester Friends of the Earth is a Licensed Local Group of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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