Ambitious proposals to clean up harmful air pollution

13 Mar 2019 04:06
Published by: Dave Fletcher

Bury Council's cabinet has endorsed wide ranging proposals to tackle the urgent problem of air pollution. This proposal is a joint commitment from all of the ten Greater Manchester (GM) local authorities to make the City Region one of the healthiest, cleanest and greenest conurbations in Europe.

This initiative followed the defeat in 2018 of the government at the High Court by the environmental group, Client Earth who successfully proved that the government had failed in their duty to meet air quality standards. The government then instructed 60 councils across England to submit plans to improve air quality “in the shortest possible time”.

Poor air quality is now the largest environmental public health issue facing the UK. Pollutants, mainly Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) and particulates (tiny particles of dust, soot and liquid droplets) are linked to a range of serious health problems and reduced life expectancy. It’s been estimated that air pollution contributes to the equivalent of 1200 deaths per year in GM alone. Road transport causes 80% of NOX emissions at the roadside, mainly from diesel engines.

The published Outline Business Case (OBC) sets out a “GM Clean Air Plan” to tackle NOX exceedances, a proposed package of measures to significantly reduce harmful NOX emissions from road vehicles.

The OBC puts forward an unprecedented programme to clean up GM’sBus, HGV, taxi and van fleets, future proofing the road transport system and helping to make it and the environment fit for residents todayand for generations to come.

It proposes a Clean Air Zone covering the 500 square miles of Greater Manchester and its near 3 million people, the largest metropolis outside London. The zone will require owners of high polluting, non compliant HGVs, buses, taxis private hire vehicles, vans and mini buses: but not cars to pay a daily penalty to drive in GM.

The OBC concludes that considerable financial support will be needed from central government to help clean up GM’s air while supporting businesses to switch to cleaner vehicles and sustaining economic growth. A Clean Air Zone will not be introduced without the necessary government funding for these support measures. The Clean Air Zone would be implemented from 2021. From 2023 non compliant vans will also be included in the list of non compliant vehicles as the availability of compliant vans becomes more available.

Councillor Alan Quinn, Bury’s Environmental Lead said “Poor air quality kills hundreds of people every year in GM, we cannot simply do nothing. However we need the necessary funding and legislation from government to achieve this”.

Each of GM’s local authorities will be asked to approve the OBC for the proposals before they are submitted to government at the end of this month. A Final Business Case would be developed by the end of 2019 follwing public consultation and subject to further local authority approvals.

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