Action needed now to tackle Greater Manchester’s air pollution crisis, report says

A new study shows increasing levels of pollution will cost 1.6 million life years within Greater Manchester in the coming century, while costing the region’s economy £1bn every year.

The latest report entitled Atmosphere, undertaken by the IPPR North, based on findings of Kings College London presents some stark figures on pollution levels in the north west region. The think tank’s director has said “lives are being cut short” and “children’s health is being put at risk” as a result, warning there must be “no delay” in responses by city leaders and the government.

Action needs to be wide-ranging and immediate according to the IPPR North with the study concluding that central Manchester has the highest rate of hospital admissions for asthma in the country, with north Manchester in second place.

Using the 2011 baseline, NO2 pollution alone was estimated to have caused up to 1,781 premature deaths in Greater Manchester and particulate matter pollution up to 1,906 premature deaths.

The think tank estimates that 1.6 million life years will be lost in Greater Manchester in the coming century due to its poisonous air - equivalent to every person having their life expectancy reduced by six months.

The report finds that Greater Manchester faces a similar air pollution challenge to London caused principally by transport emissions but neither have the powers nor the strategies to tackle it. Those behind the report therefore say it’s vital the region receives more devolved powers to allow the Greater Manchester mayor to take responsibility for a reformed clean air agenda.

Director of IPPR North, Sarah Longlands said: “The human cost of this air pollution crisis to Greater Manchester cannot be overstated.  “For too long, the debate on air pollution has been focused on London. But now for the first time, we understand the full extent of the problem in Greater Manchester. We simply cannot allow this to continue. There must be no delay. We need to see immediate and ambitious action from Government and from local leaders, including a Greater Manchester Clean Air Devolution Deal, as part of a Clean Air Fund and diesel scrappage scheme”.

The report calls on mayor Andy Burnham to make new pledges to speed up plans to clean up Greater Manchester’s toxic air which include urgent action to transform Greater Manchester’s out-dated bus fleet and setting up a Clean Air Taskforce to drive changes as fast as possible.

The Atmosphere study also calls upon government to give Greater Manchester the powers and funds necessary to make faster progress including:

  • A Clean Air Devolution Deal to pay for improved public transport, electric vehicle charging points and other incentives for green travel in the city
  • A national, targeted diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers switch to electric vehicles
  • A comprehensive national strategy that mandates agencies such as Highways England and Network Rail to work more effectively with local councils to deliver real change.

Commenting on the report, Alison Cook, director of Policy at the British Lung Foundation, said: “Air pollution is a threat to us all. Children, the elderly and people with a lung condition are the most vulnerable. Greater Manchester is one of the most polluted areas in the UK. This report provides more detail on the health impact of air pollution on the city than we’ve had before. Ambitious and concrete measures from the Mayor and central government must now follow, such as rolling out charging Clean Air Zones in the most polluted areas.”

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email