Manchester’s extensive Clean Air Zone will save many lives and inject over £7m into city economy, new research shows
Analysis by CBI Economics, commissioned by the Clean Air Fund, shows:
- City would see minimum £7m annual benefit from reduction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels as a result of the proposed Clean Air Zone (CAZ)
- Projected 16% reduction in NO2 could also prevent at least 160 deaths each year, and more than 350 days spent in hospital across city-region. This represents around 1% of all Manchester’s deaths and 4% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions.
- Manchester’s wider focus and better developed CAZ plan to be rewarded – city will see gains many times greater than others including Liverpool and Bristol
The proposed introduction of an extensive Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Manchester would deliver significant health and economic benefits by reducing dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in key areas, first-of-its-kind research on air pollution shows. The city stands to gain many times more than others including Bristol and Liverpool because of the wider scope of its CAZ.
Last year analysis by CBI Economics, 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. This latest study from the same organisations shows the economic benefits the CAZ programme could deliver in key UK cities including Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London.
Manchester is one of several cities due to implement a 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. The city has gone further than the government stipulates, expanding the target zone to include the full greater Manchester region. Today’s research suggests this will substantially increase economic and health benefits to the city overall and spread them across a wider area.
By requiring older, more polluting commercial vehicles and private cars to pay to drive through the region’s full administrative boundary, except for strategic roads and motorways, the City Council’s move would reduce nitrogen dioxide levels by significantly more than the average CAZ, which tends to focus on smaller areas in a city centre.
This would prevent – at 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 £7.1m into the city’s economy, compared to the £1.5m projected gain from Liverpool’s CAZ, or £1m in Bristol.
The researchers make clear that the numbers given are the minimum benefits these measures would bring, because their analysis did not measure a number of factors. For example, bringing down vehicle emissions would likely also reduce other pollutants, improving air quality will reduce health conditions in which air pollution is a secondary factor, and more people will be exposed to cleaner air than just the inhabitants of Manchester’s city centre.
Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund said:
“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. 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 – 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, CBI North West Director, said:
“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.
”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. 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. In Manchester, 15% of all deaths in 2019 were due to respiratory conditions as the underlying cause, and 8% of hospital admissions. Reducing NO2 levels could therefore prevent premature deaths and reduce hospital admissions associated with exposure to NO2.
 “The reduction in NO2 concentrations is based on an estimate of the 2019 annual average NO2 level for Manchester of 31 µg/m3, estimated by Ricardo.”
 A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document.
 This is based on the upper end estimate of 21 deaths prevented, calculated using deaths data from the ONS. The number of deaths and hospitalisations will not stay the same as the years go on because of increasing changes in population size and age structure as the deaths prevented accumulate over time. However, given this is a static analysis, the population and employment levels are assumed constant, whereas a dynamic analysis would account for population changes over time.
 This is based on the upper end estimate of 21 deaths prevented, calculated using deaths data from the ONS.
 PHE (2018) Estimation of costs to the NHS and social care due to the health impacts of air pollution
 ONS (2020) Mortality Statistics