Poison air

Greater Manchester should be taking action against air pollution, not promoting roads that will increase the problem. The proposed A6-M60 Bypass would spread pollution along its route as well as on congested feeder roads.

Advocates of the A6-M60 Bypass make much of hoped-for reductions in emissions on some roads (such as the A6 in Hazel Grove) if the Bypass is built, but tend to ignore the fact that pollution would be relocated to other areas, such as Offerton and Lower Bredbury.

Traffic fumes are by far the biggest killer on our streets. According to the latest official estimate, air pollution contributes to 50,000 deaths a year in the UK: vehicle emissions play a part in most of them. In comparison. 1,775 people died in road accidents in 2013.

Cancer, heart disease, asthma and emphysema can all be caused by air pollution. Effects of exposure may develop quickly or over many years. Children are particularly vulnerable even to low doses.

While traffic fumes are most dangerous in prolonged exposure for people living close to major roads, the highest concentrations are found within vehicles themselves. Frequent and professional drivers are at risk.

Ponies and trees with school behind.

The A6-M60 Bypass would bring pollution to Dial Park Primary School, Offerton. The SEMMMS Airport Road will increase pollution on the A34 (top picture).

Courts order action

Regulations covering road pollution have existed for decades, but action has been lacking. The British Government fought a long rearguard action in the courts against immediate enforcement of European emission limits but has finally run out of rope. Plans are now being hurriedly put together by the end of the year to deal with unlawful pollution at specific locations.

Within Greater Manchester, Transport for Greater Manchester is producing an urgent plan to tackle illegal pollution hot spots throughout the metropolis. It is working with Stockport Council to deal with (supposedly) the only identified excess emissions in the borough – on the A34 in Cheadle.

However, Stockport Council does not publish clear information about the extent of testing of air quality and the results. The only published information from the Council covers the A34 at Cheadle and the A6 at Stepping Hill, though a recent question to the Council revealed more extensive monitoring on the A34 and A6 plus four other locations. Online it is still claiming that the A34 has low emissions, which is now known to be untrue. In a Freedom of Information response last year, the Council said the A6 at Stepping Hill was the only place in the borough breaching limits.

The official Environmental Statement prepared in 2013 prior to approval of the SEMMMS Airport Road names nine other roads in Stockport that breach the nitrogen dioxide limit in addition to the A34 and the A6 from Hazel Grove northwards (see table below covering 24 testing points).

In January 2018 a company called EarthSense produced air quality estimates for all post codes in the country. St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Heaton Norris next to the M60 had a particularly bad score, meaning that it is likely to be suffering illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide.

Politicians could stop the pollution epidemic by ordering the phasing out of vehicles powered by conventional engines, perhaps including a scrappage scheme – starting with the main culprits, diesel HGVs and cars. Low- and no-emission alternatives are available. Germany is planning the end of the internal combustion engine in 2030, following a lead given by Norway. The British Government has a less ambitious target of halting new sales of conventional engines in 2040 but will permit sales of hybrid cars.

Until compelled by the courts to take action against air pollution, the British government had been relying on improvements in engine efficiency and technology to reduce emissions. Revelations that VW had rigged the testing of its diesel cars’ emissions has made it harder to believe car manufacturers’ claims for their engines. Nevertheless increasing purchases of hybrid cars over the next decade is likely to have some impact.

Houses in winter sun.

Foggbrook Close will be cornered between the bypass and the A626.

New roads – more traffic

Terrible rush-hour congestion in Stockport produces pollution. Stockport Council’s combined M56-A6-M60 road offers no real solution because it will be locked into traffic growth. Any reductions achieved in pollution on streets in the Borough will be vulnerable to continuing increases in vehicle use caused by new roads.

The Airport Road should lessen pollution on the A6 from Hazel Grove northwards. South of Hazel Grove the effect reverses:  increases in traffic will generate more poisoned air (whether or not technically breaching legal limits). Illegal levels of pollution will be raised further at Disley and on the A34 at Cheadle.

The Bypass Business Case has claimed that the A6-M60 Bypass will lessen total pollution because it will produce a reduction in queuing. However, the Business Case’s forecasting is seriously flawed, particularly by its failure to take into account increases in traffic caused by the Bypass. In the longer term, even the Business Case’s statistical appendices reveal congestion worsening rather than improving – with or without the Bypass.

Pollution is a threat to children in particular. There is a growing international consensus that schools should not be within 150 metres of busy roads. The Bypass will run close to Dial Park Primary School, Offerton and the Overdale Centre in  Romiley.

Tanker, traffic lights and stone memorial.

Disley fears even heavier traffic on the A6.

Supporters of road building in Stockport tend to argue that emissions caused by the Bypass can be disregarded because traffic will be shifted from urban routes into fields. Such arguments have limited relevance to the route from the A6 to the M60: its central section in Offerton is close to houses although running through fields; in Bredbury houses are within spitting distance of the route.  A tunnel in Bredbury will vent fumes at potentially illegal concentrations.

Roads carrying traffic towards the Bypass will be another site of pollution, such as Marple’s clogged-up Dan Bank and, once again, the A6 from Furness Vale through Disley to High Lane.

Above all, the Bypass would be bad for pollution because it would be a very large investment in the dominance of cars and trucks in Stockport and surrounding areas. We need less dependency on petrol and diesel engines – the Bypass would do the opposite.

Breaches of NO2 limits in Stockport borough – according to Airport Road Environmental Statement 2013:

Diffusion Tube measurements in SMB

Annual Average NO2, ug/m³ (max limit,40)

Max 2007~2012












Finney Lane





Kennilworth Road, Cheadle Heath

Urban Background




Gorton Road, Reddish






Urban Centre




Bramhall Lane





A6 Norwood Road, Woodsmoor





Civic Centre, Hazel Grove




Mouchel 40

Woodford Road S of roundabout N


Mouchel 41

Woodford Road S of roundabout S


Mouchel 42

Woodford Road N of roundabout N


Mouchel 43

Woodford Road N of roundabout S


Mouchel 44

Bramhall Lane South S of Bridge Lane S


Mouchel 47

Bramhall Lane South N of Bridge Lane N


Mouchel 51

Macclesfield Road N  


Mouchel 54

A6 Buxton Road N


Mouchel 55

A6 Buxton Road S


Mouchel 56

Buxton Road, High Lane E


Mouchel 57

Buxton Road, High Lane W


Mouchel 58

Torkington Road


Mouchel 59

A34 SB N


Mouchel 60

A34 SB S


Mouchel 61

A34 NB S


Mouchel 62

A34 NB Centre near Gatley Road jct


Mouchel 63

A34 NB near M60 jct



Trees and scrub between houses.

The bypass tunnel under Osborne Street will vent concentrated fumes.

Some sources




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