Manchester Friends of the Earth call for city centre ultra low emission zone to tackle air pollution

The environmental group has challenged the authorities to bring in the green measure on Clean Air Day.

Manchester Friends of the Earth have called for an ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) to be introduced in the city centre to tackle air pollution problems.

The environmental organisation made the call on Clean Air Day and said it would target some of the areas with the highest levels of harmful substances in the air.

Manchester Friends of the Earth said it wanted to see measures along the lines of the ones introduced in London to get polluting vehicles off the city centre’s roads.

The organisation also stressed its ongoing support for the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone (CAZ) as the policy continues to be the subject of wrangling between the Government and the city-region’s elected mayor Andy Burnham and officials.

What has Manchester Friends of the Earth called for?

The environmental group said it wanted to see an ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) introduced to cover the area within the Manchester and Salford inner ring road.

It said a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) had revealed that in 2020, when traffic levels were considerably lower than normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic, eight of the 16 sites which had nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels above the legal limit of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre were within the inner ring road.

An NO2 diffuser tube

Manchester Friends of the Earth also said air pollution is a public health emergency, citing a King’s College report in 2018 that estimated air pollution costs Greater Manchester around £1.2 billion a year.

It said the ULEZ in London had reduced roadside NO2 levels by 36% in its first six months of operation.

How does the London ULEZ work?

London’s ULEZ covers the area within the North and South Circular Roads in the centre of the capital city, with the two A-roads forming the boundary of the zone not actually in it.

It operates every day of the year with the exception of Christmas Day, and is in action 24 hours a day.

Sadiq Khan is planning to extend London’s ULEZ area. Photo: Getty

Vehicles must meet certain emissions standards or they have to pay to drive in the ULEZ. These are Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles, Euro 4 (on nitrogen oxides (NOx)) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles and Euro 6 (for NOx and particulate matter (PM)) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles.

Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and buses, minibuses and coaches weighing over 5 tonnes, do not need to pay the ULEZ charge.

There is a daily charge of £12.50 to drive inside the zone.

What has Manchester Friends of the Earth said?

Catherine Thomson, Manchester Friends of the Earth co-ordinator, said: “Air pollution is a public health emergency. In September, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) drastically reduced their guidance for limits on air pollution levels.

“Toxic air pollution causes over 1,000 people to die early each year in Greater Manchester, and causes untold damage to the lungs of our children.

“How many more have to be harmed before our politicians stop making excuses and start taking action on this public health emergency?”

What about the Clean Air Zone (CAZ)?

The controversial Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is currently under review following a public and business backlash against the proposals.

The process has not been smooth, with political mudslinging on social media between Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Conservative ministers over who is responsible for the scheme and how people are going to be affected by it.

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Manchester Friends of the Earth says it still wants to see the CAZ brought in across Greater Manchester with charges being levied on non-compliant vehicles.

The organisation says the Clean Air Plan needs to tackle all polluting vehicles and make use of the most effective measures to reduce air pollution in the shortest time possible.

What have the Greater Manchester authorities said?

Manchester City Council, Salford City Council and TfGM have all been approached for comment about the ULEZ proposal.