manchester foe logo

Greater Manchester ‘Do minimum’ Clean Air Plan fails to address air pollution public health emergency

news release

Manchester Friends of the Earth are hugely disappointed that Greater Manchester is proposing a Clean Air plan that fails to address the urgency of the public health emergency caused by air pollution.  

More than 1,000 people are dying early in Greater Manchester every year due to the filthy air they breathe, which is also causing untold damage to children’s lungs.
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.” (1) 

In 2017, following successful court cases brought by Client Earth, the Government was instructed to meet the air quality limits in “the shortest time possible”. (2)  In fact, the UK Government should have introduced measures to reduce air pollution to below legal levels by 2010.

Since then, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new guidance which recommends even more stringent limits on air pollution levels in response to the latest evidence of the damage it causes to human health. (3)

The revised Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan is now proposing a ‘Do minimum’ approach that will see some areas failing to meet the legal air pollution limits until 2026 at best. (4)

Catherine Thomson, Manchester Friends of the Earth coordinator said:

“Air pollution is a public health emergency, and this watered-down plan is totally unacceptable.

“We know that toxic Nitrogen Dioxide causes untold damage to the lungs of our children.”

“A child born in 2017 – when the Government was instructed to reduce air pollution in the shortest time possible – will be 10 years old before Greater Manchester plans to reach the legal limits.”  

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

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Mayor has focussed attention on the possible cost to local businesses of a charging clean air zone.  However, as highlighted in a 2018 report by King’s College, air pollution is estimated to cost Greater Manchester over £1 billion a year  – which is approximately one fifth of the GM annual health budget. (5)

Charging polluting vehicles to enter Clean Air Zones, or Low Emission Zones, would help to clean up the dirtiest air.  The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London reduced roadside NO2 by 36% in the first six months of operation. (6)

Manchester’s city centre – the area inside the inner ring road – has some of the worst levels of air pollution. Manchester Friends of the Earth argues that the city centre needs an ultra-low emissions zone that restricts all vehicle types, including cars, which don’t meet basic pollution standards, and that the rest of Greater Manchester should be covered by a separate zone that charges polluting HGVs, buses and coaches, vans and taxis.

To support local residents and businesses affected by the charges, Manchester Friends of the Earth calls on the government to invest in a clean, frequent and affordable public transport network and introduce a nationwide vehicle scrappage scheme, part funded by vehicle manufacturers.  This would help people replace their dirty vehicle with a clean one, or better still with a car club membership, a rail or bus season ticket, or an e-bike.


Contact for comment:  Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth.  Mobile: 07951 642858.   Email:

Notes for Editors

(1) 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 admissions.5  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.”

(2) 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.

(3) New WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines aim to save millions of lives from air pollution.

(4) See: Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan to tackle Nitrogen Dioxide Exceedances at the Roadside. Case for a New GM Clean Air Plan.

(5) IPPR North: 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.

Find us on


Support Us

Donate or join us using a standing order or PayPal.