Charging – the lazy, unsustainable, ineffective way to reduce air pollution!

There are alternatives to the planned GM Clean Air Zone!

A new facebook page has attracted over 35,000 members in less than a month, over 10,000 people
joined in the last week alone, and the site generated over 1,000 new posts on just one day.

So, in facing the fall out from the extensive opposition to the introduction of the GM Clean Air Charge, GM’s Mayor Andy Burnham and the Region’s Air Quality Lead, Andrew Western (also Leader of Trafford Council) issued a statement yesterday. Does it help?  In a word – NO!

We won’t cover the what and the why in relation to Air Pollution here.  You all know it is very harmful to our health (from the cradle to the grave), that there are a number of dangerous (killer) pollutants that you cannot see in the air and that there are a range of sources, including road traffic – click on the graphic for more info.

The Government requires GM to meet the legal limits for Air Pollution.  The introduction of the scheme to achieve that aim is for Local Authorities and the Mayor of GM to determine.

Yet, only one solution has been proposed

– the GM Clean Air Zone, which will see a number of users charged to use local roads, a Clean Air Zone with a number of flaws!

So, what about the alternatives???

What GM should be implementing is a GM Transport Strategy that incorporates the introduction of genuinely sustainable passenger and freight transport options that will actually reduce the number of vehicles using our roads.

That means affordable, reliable and frequent public transport that covers all corners of the GM landscape, alternatives to the ever-increasing numbers of HGVs on our local roads and prioritising active travel users.

Yet, having led the development of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework since 2017, Mayor Burnham has not insisted on sustainable transport being at the core of the proposals. 

Look at New Carrington as an example.  The plan is to build 5,000 homes, 350,000 m2 employment space (all industrial and warehousing) and to construct 4 major new roads, all on, across and/or around a peat moss, wetland, woodland and grade 2 agricultural land. 

And to support all this development, what sustainable passenger and freight transport options are being proposed – NONE/ZERO/NADA!

Yep, you got it!  NONE/ZERO/NADA!

No passenger or freight trains, despite former railway lines running right through the site.

No passenger or freight water transport, despite the location being right next to the Manchester Ship Canal.

No additional bus services (we’ve checked via an FOI request), despite the recognition in the 2006 UDP and the 2012 Core Strategy that improving public transport is essential to the regeneration of the area (and since those plans were published, our bus services have actually reduced)!

Do the decision-makers understand the problems?

It doesn’t seem so! 

The commentary on that new facebook page identifies the key concerns of residents and businesses. 

Many small businesses, already impacted by the pandemic, say they will not survive, or will have to make staffing cuts, causing real hardship to local families.

And, even if businesses can survive the introduction of these charges, they will be passed on to the consumer, at a time when it is recognised that the most vulnerable in our society are already suffering from increased prices of food, energy and other essential goods and services.

Businesses are also reporting that the financial support scheme is not fit for purpose but, even if it was, supply chain issues mean the vehicles are not available to buy or lease!

People are also asking, what happens to all that money that will be collected, where will it go, what will it fund?  Perhaps a new section should be added to the Clean Air GM website to explain!

We don’t think so – NO!

Why?  Because all the vehicles paying the charge will still be emitting the pollution (and, crucially, the charge does not result in fewer vehicles being on the road)!

Neither will the charge result in transformational modal change, which should, of course, have been the primary objective of a solution to the air pollution problem (remember, other Air Pollutant Limits are being breached too).

What is the answer?

Clearly a major revision of the GM Transport Strategy is needed but in the meantime ……………………..

Get your residents around the table, Mayor Burnham.  Listen to their ideas, listen to how your plans will impact them and listen to what is important to them. 

They ARE your key stakeholders!!!

And finally, in relation to Air Pollution!

The Community Planning Alliance (an umbrella organisation for over 550 community groups all campaigning against inappropriate development) ran the first of a series of workshops last month to engage communities more actively in the air pollution/air quality debate.  If you missed it, you can see the recording at this link.

Their next session (8th February) will focus on local measuring and monitoring of air pollution.  Click on the graphic below to register. All are welcome.

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