First-of-its-kind research on air pollution has revealed that the proposed introduction of an extensive Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Manchester would deliver “significant health and economic benefits”.
In 2019, 8% of hospital admissions and 15% of all deaths in Manchester were due to respiratory conditions as the underlying cause, but by reducing dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in key areas, the city stands to gain more than others – including Bristol and Liverpool – due to the wider scope of its CAZ.
Last year, analysis by CBI Economics – which was commissioned by the Clean Air Fund – found that the UK economy could benefit to the tune of £1.6 billion each year if it were to achieve the guidelines set by the WHO for ‘safe’ air quality, and this latest study from the same organisations now shows that the economic benefits that CAZ programme could deliver for key UK cities including Manchester.
Manchester is one of several cities due to implement a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) as part of its response to the UK government’s air quality plan – which requires local authorities to develop a strategy for reducing NO2.
Despite failing to include restrictions for private cars, the city has already gone further than the government stipulates by expanding the target zone to include the full Greater Manchester region, and this new research now suggests that this will “substantially increase economic and health benefits to the city overall” and spread them across a wider area.
By also requiring older and more-polluting commercial vehicles to pay to drive through the region’s full administrative boundary, except for strategic roads and motorways, this would reduce nitrogen dioxide levels by significantly more than the average CAZ – which tends to focus on smaller areas in a city centre – and could help to prevent a minimum 160 deaths each year, and save 350 days spent in hospital due solely to NO2 exposure.
This represents around 1% of all Manchester’s deaths, and 4% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions.
The increased days in work and lives saved would inject at least £7.1 million into Manchester’s economy, compared to the £1.5 million projected gain from Liverpool’s CAZ, or £1 million in Bristol.
“For the first time, these numbers give hard evidence that the Clean Air Zone would make Manchester richer and healthier, with its widened focus spreading these benefits across the whole city.” said Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund.
“This shows the benefits of joined-up thinking on business and health as we build back better.
“The council’s positive vision for clean air is hugely welcome [and] it needs to quickly implement these measures to lock in its own economic and public health gains and show what is possible elsewhere”.
Damian Waters – North West Director at CBI – added: “Cleaner air within our major cities is an aspiration not only central to improving public health, but also a business-critical issue for firms in Manchester [as] congested city streets are all too common a sight, slowing business operations and ultimately putting people’s health at risk.
“The loss of working hours in Manchester alone runs into the hundreds of thousands.
“Building Back Better must have a green thread running through the very middle of it, [and] that means working together towards reaching our net zero targets and making the most of the economic benefits from lowering air pollution in urban areas”.
Public Health England estimates that between 2017 and 2025, the total cost to the NHS and social care system due to NO2 alone will reach £61 million.
You can find more information via the Clean Air Greater Manchester website here.