It’s been revealed that air pollution throughout Greater Manchester has crept back up to near pre-pandemic levels after a sharp drop during the first lockdown.
Data from the think tank Centre for Cities stated that there was a 40% reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels across Greater Manchester following the first national lockdown and ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions since, but this had returned to 93% of pre-pandemic levels by September.
The main source of NO2 pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, particularly fuel in vehicles.
These findings follow the end of an eight-week public consultation for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the region, although plans for its implementation were previously delayed for a year because of the pandemic.
The study also looked at particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5μm or less (PM2.5) – their size means they can get deep into the lungs and bloodstream – finding that PM2.5 levels fell by 17% in the region during the first lockdown, but remained above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of 10µg/m3.
Speaking on the research findings, Andrew Carter – Chief Executive at Centre for Cities – said: “Toxic air has contributed to the deaths of thousands of COVID-19 victims this year and, even after the pandemic ends, will remain a big threat to health,
“Particularly for those living in urban areas.”
Dom Goggins – a member of the Manchester Climate Change Board who runs the Parliamentary Group for Renewable and Sustainable Energy – has called for WHO standards to be written into the Environment Bill that is going through Parliament, saying: “It comes back to legislation and resources at a national level to give local leaders the powers and the resources, the capacity, to do what needs to be done.
“Local leaders can’t do this with their hands tied behind their back and at the moment it feels like that is what’s happening.”
The government has directed Greater Manchester to introduce a Category C CAZ, now expected to be brought in by spring 2022.
It will be England’s biggest such zone and would require vans, buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, minibuses and heavy goods vehicles that do not meet emission standards to pay a daily charge to travel.
Private cars, motorbikes and mopeds are not included.
It will apply to all roads within Greater Manchester – except for motorways and trunk roads – and will operate 24/7 using Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology.
Mr Goggins – who has written several reports on air pollution in Greater Manchester, including Atmosphere (2018) and Unfair Air (2020) – added: “It’s essential if we’re going to deal with this problem that we’ve got to get fewer cars on the road, and we need to shift from high polluting vehicles to low polluting vehicles. But people who need a vehicle to earn a living can’t be penalised and the transitional funding needs to be made available by national government to the combined and local authorities in Greater Manchester to support that transition.”
The public consultation on the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) closed on 3rd December and news on the final plan to be considered by the ten Greater Manchester local authorities is expected early next year.
You can find more information via the Clean Air GM website here.
New cycle lanes and beer gardens closed as Northern Quarter building deemed ‘unsafe’
A section of the new cycleway through the Northern Quarter has been temporarily closed just weeks after opening, after a historic building was deemed to be ‘unsafe’.
Metal fences have now been erected on Thomas Street, blocking part of the cycle lanes and taking over valuable outdoor space for the bars and restaurants along the street.
The building in question stands on the corner of Thomas Street and John Street, once home to the Al Faisal takeaway.
It’s part of a block of 19th century properties in the area that back in 2018 were deemed to be in ”imminent danger of collapse’.
Councillors now say that the Northern Quarter building is unsafe, and will need to be propped up with scaffolding.
The owners of the building want to protect its historic facade but are unable to begin work immediately due to the high construction costs.
But until the scaffolding can be built, temporary fencing has been erected to protect members of the public.
It’s understood that the work will take up to 10 working days to complete.
Several images of the fencing have been circulation on social media, with the NQHQ account tweeting: “If you thought the cycleway through the Northern Quarter was sh*t…..well it just got sh*tter.”
Piccadilly Labour have said: “Building on the corner unfortunately deemed unsafe. Cllr @JonConnorLyons met with the owners who are putting up scaffolding and want to preserve the facade of the building – current construction costs are incredibly high for them to proceed with the development plans this year.”
Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons then added: “Winter weather has made the building vulnerable & cracks have formed which has resulted in the building having to be supported by scaffolding, whilst this happens, these fences have been put up to protect the public. Some reveal in this sort – that is a shame.”
Although the fencing is there in the public’s interest, several local hospitality businesses are concerned about the impact this will have on trade – especially as the fencing has appeared during the heatwave, when punters will be wanting to be outdoors to make the most of the sunny weather.
The Smithfield Social, which is part-owned by the Courteeners’ Liam Fray, has lost a chunk of its outdoor seating – though it does still have space for tables on Edge Street.
A spokesperson for the bar said: “The building works which commenced yesterday have impacted our outside trade significantly.
“We usually have eight tables out the front but after lengthy talks with councils and licensing we have come up with a solution which means we now have a severely reduced area with only four tables.
“The area seems to be an after thought as we are the only business affected by it. Fierce have moved their area but they do not lose any space.
“I have no doubt that we have lost significant patronage because of this, as who wants to sit outside with heavy machinery next to you and dust being blown in your face? Quite unfortunate timing with the great weather we are forecast to have over the coming days.”
The Manc has approached Manchester City Council for comment.
Featured image: The Manc Group
New stations appear across Manchester for city’s rentable ‘Burnham bike’ scheme
The roll-out of Greater Manchester’s Bee Bike cycle hire scheme has stepped up a gear, with new docking stations appearing across the city centre.
The scheme, nicknamed the ‘Burnham bikes’ as a nod to London’s ‘Boris bikes’, initially launched in Salford and along the Oxford Road corridor.
Several new yellow stations have appeared around Manchester now, with plenty more on the way.
The next phase of the roll-out of the Bee Bikes has seen stations installed around St Peter’s Square and Manchester Central.
By the time the scheme is complete, bike numbers will increase to 1,500, which will include 300 e-bikes.
It’s all part of the vision for a Bee Network – a joined-up, integrated public transport network across the region.
And it’s certainly off to a more successful start than Mobike, which famously withdrew from Manchester due to high levels of vandalism and theft.
The Bee Bikes are funded by TgGM and operated by Beryl, which runs similar schemes in London, Watford and Bournemouth.
Richard Nickson, programme director, Cycling and Walking at Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “The cycle hire scheme has really taken off in Greater Manchester since it was first introduced, and we are seeing significant numbers of riders and distances travelled by on the bikes- which is fantastic, particularly as we are still in the early days of the scheme’s roll out.
“The next phase of the roll-out has now started in Manchester city centre, with new stations installed at key locations including Manchester Central Library, Manchester Central Convention Centre and St Peter’s Square.