Climate change and the subsequent impact on the environment around us is one of the most urgent policy areas in our country today.
Whether it’s the air that we breathe or the water that we drink, these things matter, and they matter more than most as so often they can be the difference between good health and bad, life and death.
Greater Manchester has in the past been ahead of the curve when tacking pollution and protecting the environment around us. The former Denton UDC was one of the very first councils outside of London to implement the Clean Air Act 1956. This meant Tameside was one of the first to benefit from enforceable smokeless zones across the area.
It’s really easy sometimes to forget how things used to be. Whereas today we discuss invisible pollutants in the air and water, in the past we were talking about air pollution which was physically visible because it was so thick. The factories and hubs around Tameside at the time would billow out the thickest black soot and smoke all day long. Added to that the workers of the factories often had coal fires at home which made matter worse, this all led to air which you knew was bad for your health, even as you were breathing it in.
We adapted then, and we can adapt now. Planting and backing green spaces mean that harmful pollutants in the skies around Greater Manchester can be drawn out of the atmosphere, rather than into our lungs. This is even more important for Tameside which has some of the worst air quality of all the conurbations, mainly due to the M67 and M60 which cut right through Tameside.
Which is why it’s fundamental for the health and wellbeing of everyone in the conurbation that we keep our green spaces green, not just for fun and leisure, but also a fundamental asset which cleans our air and reduces pollution from the wider urban sprawl. That’s why I have always backed a ‘brownfield first’ strategy which focuses on developing land on areas which have already been built upon before, rather than using land which is unspoiled and untouched.
I made my feelings clear last week in Parliament when I spoke from the Frontbench in a Westminster Hall Debate on the GM Spatial Framework. It was also an opportunity to speak from the heart about I want to clear to you in the column just as I was clear last week; I am still strongly opposed to the proposal to extend the industrial estate deep into the Green Belt at the Tame Valley, which is right on the edge of Haughton Green. It will destroy the openness and tranquillity of the two Nature Reserves that it borders, it will reduce air quality and will see an increase in HGV usage through the roads in my constituency.
Which is also why I’m proud to be part of a Labour Party which have plans in place to ensure the UK can move swiftly to a decarbonised future to tackle the unfolding climate crisis. By creating hundreds of thousands of high-skilled green jobs we will not only be securing our environment but securing jobs for the future. By bringing together trade unionists, industry leaders, academics, engineers and public institutions we can build detailed regional plans setting out the challenges and opportunities ahead.
I know that we will all meet the challenges of tomorrow, not just for ourselves, but the generations to come.