Urgent Action needed to Clean Up Greater Manchester’s illegal air pollution
Environmental campaigners and local parents are calling for more urgent and ambitious action to clean up air in Greater Manchester, as a consultation on a future Clean Air Zone is launched today (8 October). 
The proposed Clean Air Zone, which would come into force from Spring 2022, would place a charge on the most polluting commercial vehicles, with vehicles that meet emission standards exempt from charges for travelling within the zone.
However the proposed ‘Category C’ Clean Air Zone (CAZ) excludes private vehicles which make up the majority of vehicles on Greater Manchester’s roads.  This means it would do little to reduce air pollution on roads with high private vehicle traffic, such as Princess Parkway in Manchester where 90% of vehicles are private cars or taxis and where one school, St Ambrose primary, experiences pollution so severe that windows cannot be opened. 
The CAZ is being introduced to ensure Greater Manchester meets legal limits on nitrogen dioxide, with the aim of compliance by 2024, but local parents and environmental campaigners are highlighting that the law requires the limits to be met “in the shortest time possible”. 
Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country – Central Manchester and North Manchester NHS trusts have emergency admissions at double the national average.  And evidence shows that the most vulnerable people and those living in disadvantaged areas are at greater risk from air pollution.
Catherine Thomson from Manchester Friends of the Earth said:
“Air pollution is responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year in Greater Manchester and places a huge burden on the NHS, affecting children, older people and those living in disadvantaged areas the most.
“A Clean Air Zone is needed to meet legal limits in the shortest time possible, but it makes no sense that Greater Manchester’s CAZ will not include private vehicles. We need more ambitious action on our dirty air crisis including an end to road-building schemes and new measures to help people out of their cars and onto cleaner forms of transport.”
Lorenza Casini, a parent from Burnage, and member of local parents’ group Levenshulme Clean Air, said:
“Dirty air affects nearly every organ of the body and is linked to asthma, heart and lung disease, dementia and now to worsening coronavirus symptoms.
“Action to meet legal air quality limits should have happened a decade ago – our health cannot afford to wait another four years. Alongside the Clean Air Zone we need urgent action to encourage people out of cars such as through safer walking and cycling infrastructure and School Streets so that children can arrive at school free from air pollution and road danger.”
Manchester Friends of the Earth believes that there is little recognition from national Government of the scale or urgency of Greater Manchester’s air pollution crisis and we are calling for urgent action by both local and national government to quickly and drastically improve air quality including:
* Clean Air Zones which must come into effect rapidly and include all vehicle types. Effective Clean Air Zones will lead to fewer, and cleaner cars on our roads, safer streets, more welcoming neighbourhoods and, vitally, healthier lungs for our children.
* The UK must phase out high polluting diesel and petrol vehicles, more rapidly than the government propose – by 2030, rather than 2035. There must also be a government-led scrappage scheme to help people move away from the most polluting vehicles (with car club membership and alternatives to driving such as rail season tickets being offered), and motor manufacturers who have contributed to the UK’s air pollution crisis should be made to cough up to help fund such a scheme.
* Road traffic needs to be reduced – to meet climate change targets as well as those for air pollution. Traffic generating schemes such as airport expansion and road building and widening which would add to the air pollution problem must be scrapped
* Investment in clean, affordable and reliable public transport
* An improvement in infrastructure to support alternatives to driving, such as safe cycling and walking.
Contact for comments: Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth, Mobile: 07951 642858. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors
1. See https://cleanairgm.com/clean-air-plans
2. See https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/media/1276/low-emission-strategy-dec-2016.pdf Private cars typically represents >70% of the vehicle movements on most roads