Burnham unwilling to meet to discuss region's clean air plan, say environmental lawyers

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has been unwilling to meet with environmental lawyers about the region's Clean Air Plan, it's been claimed.

ClientEarth has criticised the combined authority for taking a ‘lax approach’ to protecting people’s health by missing several deadlines to submit their plans to tackle air pollution.

This has meant the plan, which includes the largest Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the UK, has been delayed until 2022. A consultation planned for this summer has also been pushed back.

ClientEarth say they have reached out to the mayor for over a year and a half and have sent at least five letters, though ‘he hasn’t been willing to meet with us’.

The Greater Manchester combined authority confirmed that it had received correspondence from ClientEarth, but insisted they had offered to meet with them on a ‘number of occasions’.

Kate Nield, one of the group’s clean air lawyers, said: “The truth is that Greater Manchester’s leaders have not been as ready to engage with urgent and ambitious action as those in other regions.

“The truth is that Greater Manchester’s leaders have not been as ready to engage with urgent and ambitious action as those in other regions. 

“Greater Manchester was once seen to be leading the way when it published its air quality strategy and plan back in 2016 but seems to have lost its way since.

“The original deadline for their final plan was over 18 months ago. They have kicked the can down the road while other cities like Birmingham have put people’s health first.”

Last week Mr Burnham was asked if he was worried about a legal challenge from the charity, which has sued the government over illegal pollution levels three times.

Their success in court forced ministers to ask councils across the UK to draw up plans to cut harmful emissions, including CAZs, in the shortest possible time.

Mr Burnham said he wanted ClientEarth to work with Greater Manchester to develop its own Clean Air Plan, which he described as a ‘major undertaking’.

A spokesperson for the combined authority said: “Throughout the process of developing proposals for the Clean Air Plan we have been in correspondence with ClientEarth, and we have offered to meet with ClientEarth on a number of occasions.

 “The opportunity to meet with ClientEarth would be welcomed to get their views on the proposals and to discuss our approach to delivering the largest CAZ in the UK, which is a key part of Greater Manchester’s bold plan for the environment. 

“We plan to meet with many different groups over the coming months to understand the views of all those who are affected by the proposals.”

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