An awful lot has been said and written about Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan. Some of it, like parts of Chris Green’s opinion piece in last week’s Journal, untrue.

As elected officials we owe a duty to the people we serve to be open, honest, and transparent about all issues, however polarising. So, it is disappointing when people with this kind of responsibility have such a casual relationship with the truth.

As Greater Manchester’s lead on clean air, it is only right that I address these inaccuracies so that you, the reader, are informed of the facts.

The first thing to stress is that air pollution is a major public health issue contributing to 1,200 premature deaths a year in Greater Manchester.

Everyone deserves to breathe clean air and the Mayor and I – along with other council leaders – remain resolutely committed to a plan that eradicates illegal levels of pollution as soon as possible, but in a way that does not put jobs, livelihoods and businesses at risk.

Referring back to Chris Green’s column and the suggestion that the Clean Air Zone ‘was a choice of Labour leaders’, you should know that the government placed the responsibility on councils to deal with illegal levels of air quality after being found, through a series of high court judgements, to be in breach of its obligations under law regarding levels of Nitrogen Dioxide – what is effectively, air pollution.

It is also worth remembering it was repeatedly supported by Bolton’s Conservative-run council, something Mr Green well knows as a Bolton MP.

The reference that this is ‘no better than a congestion zone’ was clarified as untrue by his own party by (the former) Environment Minister Rebecca Pow during a parliamentary debate on air quality in November 2020, when she stated, in response to a question about the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: “I assure him that only the most polluting older vehicles are charged in a Clean Air Zone, and it is not a congestion charge.”

Furthermore, there never was and will not be any charging of privately owner cars or motorbikes – and we are asking government to make some vehicles such as campervans, which are treated as commercial in national legislation, exempt from any future plan.

As well as confusion, we know a lot of people are concerned about the zone, especially as we emerge from the pandemic and move towards a cost-of-living crisis. We have listened and are making sure our residents’ voices are being heard.

That is why we repeatedly raised concerns about the level of funding being offered; and why we commissioned work last year to look at changes in the vehicle market – so we could consider the impact that the CAZ proposals would have on individuals and businesses. It is why we told government we did not believe the plans were workable and why we asked they extend the date for compliance: in order for a revised plan, that is fair to the businesses and residents of the city-region, to be developed. I am grateful that government listened and agreed.

We now have until July to develop a revised plan and will be saying more about how we can do that together in the coming weeks. Whether it’s government, MPs and other elected officials (across all parties), local businesses or you, our residents, we all have a part to play.

Together we can ensure a better, healthier future for us and our children.