Council to consider Manchester city centre Ultra Low Emissions Zone

Manchester City Councillors have passed a motion calling for the consideration of an Ultra Low Emissions Zone within the city’s Inner Relief Route.

The motion, which was agreed by a meeting of all city councillors on Wednesday 29 January, requests a feasibility study to be carried out, to understand how such a zone could work in practice, while also investigating the potential for the prohibition of through-traffic inside the Inner RIng Road.  

The motion states that poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, with air pollution estimated to contribute to the equivalent of 181 deaths in Manchester every year.

Greater Manchester’s ten authorities have collectively submitted proposals for a region-wide Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to the government, with the aim of improving air quality in the shortest possible time. The current CAZ plan outlines proposed daily charges for non-compliant HGVs, vans, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles to drive in the zone, but private cars are not included.  It also includes a package of support measures, including a number of “clean vehicle funds”, to help affected local businesses upgrade to cleaner vehicles.

The motion called on the government to respond to GM’s Clean Air plan proposals for clean vehicle funds and to clarify the legal criteria under which the plan will be assessed.

The motion also asked the council to work with local schools to introduce enforceable no vehicle-idling zones.  The council will now start a process of consulting with schools, with the intention of bringing at least four pilot zones into force by spring 2020.

It is illegal to leave a vehicle’s engine running unnecessarily while stationary on a public road and under current regulations, a £20 fixed penalty notice can be imposed on a driver who fails to turn off their engine, if they refuse when asked to do so by a council officer.  The council’s motion calls upon the government to urgently launch a public consultation on proposals to toughen up the penalties for idling.

In accordance with the motion, the council will work with local NHS partners and other care providers, to examine how existing no-idling zones outside medical buildings, in hospital pick-up areas and outside care homes can be extended.

Executive Member for the Environment, Planning and Transport, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, said: “Manchester must urgently tackle the issue of toxic air, which harms us all and is the most serious environmental risk to public health we currently face.  To do this, we need to look at all possible ways in which we can reduce emissions, reduce harmful air pollution and improve the quality of life for people who live in every part of the city, including the city centre.

“The responses to our City Centre Transport Strategy conversation told us that people want to see less traffic in the city centre and we need to continue working to address this.  This work should include examining how needless car journeys through the city centre can be best avoided, while making sure that essential journeys into and out of the city centre continue, and looking at whether the introduction of an Ultra Low Emissions Zone is feasible.

“We’ve contributed to Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone plans, which include a request for clean vehicle funds to allow existing vehicles to be upgraded, but we are still waiting for a government decision on how this will be taken forward. Doing nothing in the meantime is not an option, if the city is going to clean up its air and meet its ambitious zero-carbon goal by 2038.

“Introducing enforceable no-idling zones around schools is a common-sense way to help tackle air pollution, protect our young people and reduce carbon emissions.  Engines which are left running cause pollution that affects both passers-by and people inside the car itself.  We know from talking to residents across the city that this must be addressed urgently."

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