Future levels of air pollution across Greater Manchester are likely to be worse than previously forecast, the region’s Combined Authority has claimed.
Proposals are currently being drawn up to combat exceedances of the legal NO2 level across Greater Manchester on behalf of seven of the region’s ten authorities, obligated through the government’s NO2 plan. A finalised Clean Air Plan for Manchester is due to be presented in the coming months.
Analysis carried out on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has suggested that 152 stretches of road in the region will be in breach of legal limits for concentrations of NO2 beyond 2020. This is more than had been previously assumed based on data and modelling from the government’s Pollution Climate Model, which is used to assess progress towards legal air quality objectives.
The analysis is set out in a report to be considered by GMCA officials on Friday (26 October) outlining progress on the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.
According to the report, reasons for the poorer than anticipated improvements beyond 2020 include that vehicles on the region’s roads are typically older than the national average.
And, local traffic data has also suggested that vehicles are moving slower than on roads elsewhere in the country, the report indicates.
All 10 Greater Manchester councils are jointly developing the Clean Air Plan to reduce NO2 in collaboration with Public Health England and the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU).
A series of options have been identified which will be considered against the government’s benchmark measure of the introduction of a charging Clean Air Zone.
These include a workplace parking levy to encourage commuters to use public transport, increased public transport capacity and retrofit of the existing public transport and local authority fleets.
Politically there is reluctance to introduce a charging regime in the region – particularly after people in the city voted to reject the introduction of a congestion charge at a referendum in 2008.
However, a charging CAZ remains an option for the Authority if it cannot identify measures that will improve air quality within the same timeframe.
Ahead of the meeting on Friday, Councillor Alex Ganotis, GMCA Green City Region Lead, said: “In developing our Clean Air Plan, Greater Manchester is following a strictly defined process set out by government to run feasibility studies on potential NO2 air pollution compliance measures.
“I want to be clear that a congestion charge is not being considered as part of this process. But we do have to consider how we ensure that dirty vehicles are not polluting our air. This is a major public health problem for Greater Manchester.
“Government must also act to make sure Highways England, which runs the motorway network around Greater Manchester, tackles air pollution on and near our motorways.â€?
The Combined Authority is also launching an awareness campaign – fronted by a website www.cleanairGM.com offering advice to businesses, residents and local authorities on how to address air pollution.
The website will also give latest details on the development of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.
Eleanor Roaf, Greater Manchester’s lead director of public health for air quality, added: “Air pollution is the number one environmental public health issue in Greater Manchester.
“And it’s children, older people and those in poor health who are hit hardest by polluted air. But it’s not just them who would benefit from this problem being tackled effectively.
“Polluted air increases the chance of hospital admissions and trips to A&E. It’s harming our health and is linked to increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer.
“That’s why urgent steps need to be taken to ensure this issue is tackled as quickly as possible.â€?
Clean Air Greater Manchester website