I’ve written a few times recently about the importance of clean air, but the issue comes up time and again in my work as an MP.
The importance of keeping our air clean to protect the environment and our lungs is obvious to most people, but it goes way beyond that. Not so long ago, I met with the British Heart Foundation and heard about the terrible impact that air pollution can have on our hearts and circulatory systems. Dirty air can both cause new health conditions or make existing health conditions worse.
Just this week, the Centre for Cities released their annual Cities Outlook report and chose to focus on air quality because it’s such an important issue for people living in and around cities and large towns. One of the most shocking findings of this report is that one in 19 deaths in the UK’s largest cities and towns are related to long-term exposure to air pollution – 25 times the annual rate from traffic accidents.
The Centre for Cities puts Stockport in Manchester PUA (primary urban area) and their analysis found that a worrying one in 23 deaths in our region is related to air pollution and that 19 per cent of monitored roads across the Manchester PUA have unsafe levels of pollution.
Given the impact that pollution is having on people right here in Stockport, it’s clear that we have to act. And by we, I really do mean we. It has to be a collective effort. It’s great that companies are looking at ways to minimise pollution – the air is certainly visibly cleaner now than it was when I was growing up thanks to advances in greener technologies, but this needs to go further.
On an individual level too, we can think about how to limit the amount that we pollute and it could be as simple as changing how we get around town.
It’s also important that the Government and our local authorities are working hard on this and we’re lucky in Greater Manchester to have Clean Air Greater Manchester who are working so hard to clean up our air. Whilst some plans – for instance the proposed Clean Air Zone – are a little more controversial, evidence shows that these are often the best ways to tackle the issue of pollution.
Unfortunately, the reality is that much of the air pollution through Stockport is generated by the M60 and trunk road network which is the responsibility of central government through the agency, Highways England. It’s frankly shameful that they’ve excluded these roads from the clean air schemes and I urge Ministers (if they’re truly committed to tackling this issue) to work with Clean Air GM and include the national road network in the scheme.
With hundreds of deaths in Greater Manchester every year as a result of air pollution, we can’t afford to ignore the issue.