The idea is part of a ‘Air Quality Manifesto’ drawn up by the environmental charity Global Action Plan
Pollution is so bad in Manchester city centre that there are calls for cars to be banned for a whole day every six months.
Other suggestions in a new ‘Air Quality manifesto’ include air quality being incorporated into the weather forecast and workers being allowed to work from home when pollution levels are high.
Manchester’s air is among the most polluted in the country and Public Health England has predicted that 458 people will die prematurely from air pollution in the city in 2016 – more than from obesity.
Environmental charity Global Action Plan (GAP) believe something needs to be done and so have created the manifesto.
They are also calling for a ‘low emission zone’ in the city centre.
Caroline Watson, Partner at Global Action Plan, said: “You might imagine the deaths and illnesses that result from air pollution were consigned to the Manchester of the Industrial Revolution, but today’s research shows that at least 458 will die early this year.
“In 2015 that is simply unacceptable. Individual people must be empowered to take steps to avoid pollution’s worst effects and we want to work with local and national governments to tackle the problem too.
“Air pollution is not just an environmental threat it is a public health risk. Our five-point manifesto shows the council that there are steps they could take to improve the lives of the people who live here and Global Action Plan would welcome any opportunity to help out.”
One GAP initiative, the Cleaner Air Programme, has seen the introduction of Clean Air Zones around hospitals in other parts of the UK.
Graeme Sherriff from Manchester Friends of the Earth said: “For the sake of everyone’s health and quality of life we need commitments to reduce air pollution and bold investment in cleaner forms of transport including walking, cycling and public transport. Manchester Friends of the Earth supports the actions in this air quality manifesto.”
Manchester City Council indicated the manifesto did not apply to them.
But Councillor Kate Chappell, Executive Member for Environment, added: “Air quality is an issue which we take extremely seriously.
“There is extensive action being taken Greater Manchester-wide to address this including improvements to public transport and cycling routes and investment in electrical vehicle charging points.
“It makes sense for this action to be at a Greater Manchester-wide level to make an impact and so that different places don’t simply do different things.
“There will be consultation this year on Greater Manchester’s Low Emissions Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan and while we welcome their views we would encourage GAP and other interested groups and individuals to get involved in that.”
A Transport for Greater Manchester spokesman said they had noted the manifesto and recognised Greater Manchester faces a ‘significant challenge’ due to emissions from road traffic and congestion.
He said they were committed to reducing emissions and improving air quality to bring health benefits to people.
He said to ensure EU nitrogen dioxide emission levels were met they had drafted an air quality plan to improve air quality, reduce ill health and promote low emission culture.
The plan will go to public consultation in 2016.
He added: “We would encourage Global Action Plan, and all interested parties, to engage with us on these important issues during the consultation.”
Air Quality Manifesto
Global Action Plan are asking Manchester City Council to consider the following:
1. Manchester council could create a city centre Low Emission Zone, similar to London where high-pollution vehicles such as lorries, coaches and buses are charged, while smaller vehicles can travel for free.
2. A car free day in Manchester – The Council could look at introducing periodic car-free days in Manchester to reduce air pollution. They could also ask their employees to leave their cars at home for one day every six months as a way of leading by example.
3. Regional weather forecasters could report local air quality levels alongside the weather – Official channels can really get people to think about an issue and increase its prominence in their daily lives. Weather forecasters could help people understand the impact of air quality better if they included it in their broadcasts.
4. Employees should be given flexi-working days if air pollution is too high – Manchester Council could lead the way on this and ask employees to work from home if air pollution hits dangerous levels – this would increase awareness and limit the effects of exposure. They could then lead a campaign to ask other organisations and businesses to follow suit.
5. Manchester City Council should explore making front-line institutions, such as hospitals, schools and care homes, clean air zones – This would raise awareness about poor air quality and reduce the impact of air pollution on the most vulnerable.