Greater Manchester’s deadly air pollution crisis is now officially worse than London’s, new research has warned.
The report from the respected IPPR, a dedicated think tank focused on the north of England, found that toxic air is reducing life expectancy in the region by an average of six months and, over the next century, estimates that Mancunians will collectively lose “1.6 million life years” unless action is taken now.
Yet, the problem of dirty air is nothing new for our region. Our rapid economic growth during the industrial revolution left its mark on the health of communities like ours, and it wasn’t until the Clean Air Act of the 1950s that effective measures to prevent air pollution were properly implemented.
Yet Greater Manchester adapted after the war and met the challenges which lied ahead. Today is no different – we must adjust to the environmental problems ahead of us or risk even greater health problems in future. Gone are the thick pea-souper smogs of the past, yet in their place we find a largely invisible form of pollution.
Only a few years ago, in 2015, just over 4% of all deaths in people aged 30 and over in Manchester was attributed to long-term exposure to the current levels of man-made air pollution – that’s simply not good enough and means thousands of people in our neighbourhoods are having their lives cut short due to preventable pollution.
The report’s findings laid these problems bear, with Central Manchester having the highest rate of hospital admissions for asthma in the country, followed by North Manchester.
Sadly, the proposals put forward by SEMMMS (South East Manchester Multi Modal Strategy) do absolutely nothing to rectify this public health crisis, and instead risks making air quality across that entire stretch of motorway running through my constituency worse.
Given that the two motorways (M60 and M67) which cut right through Tameside are likely to see additional displaced traffic in the future due to proposals found within the SEMMMS which proposes a link road diverting Cheshire East and Hazel Grove congestion into the M60 at Bredbury – with the next turn off at Denton Island (A57).
Our communities are quite rightly demanding more action locally, but our councils need the support of central government.
After mounting pressure from all quarters the Government finally launched a Clean Air Plan, yet the proposals were instantly derided as too little, too late.
While offering nothing in the way of meaningful funding to revolutionise our bus fleet, for example, GM has one of the worst polluting bus fleets in the UK, with 20% of the fleet made up of the most polluting vehicles, compared with just 10% in London, the Government is asking local authorities to do more, with less.
Whilst the Government continues to drag its feet over its legal duty to meet legal limits of air pollution it is more important than ever that our local and regional leaders, including the mayor of Greater Manchester, do everything they can to protect people’s right to breathe clean air.
That’s why I’m pleased that since Andy Burnham’s election last year he has announced a series actions including a £21 million investment for projects to reduce emissions in the city, while promising funding to make the region a ‘world-leader’ in green infrastructure. In Cllr. Brenda Warrington, Tameside has a committed local champion who will support Andy in delivering for our community.
Greater Manchester has the local leaders, ambition and community to push our region to be a world leader in clean air, and green technology. Now is the time to see immediate and ambitious action from central Government.
For too long, the debate on air pollution has been focused on London – this report is a wakeup call.