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Will Manchester get a city-centre Clean Air Zone?
Plus: A beautiful mill-conversion up for sale, and a Levenshulme takeaway owner who abused the furlough scheme
Dear Millers — we hope you had a lovely Jubilee weekend. This week’s briefing looks at what the future holds for Andy Burnham’s Clean Air Zone, which the government now says should cover just city centre areas. We also have some great recommendations for the week ahead, including a talk by Professor David Olusoga about Britain's “statue wars”.
In Westminster, Conservative MPs are currently deciding Boris Johnson’s future after the threshold was reached for a vote of confidence in his leadership. Altrincham and Sale West MP Graham Brady announced the vote and said it would take place between 6pm and 8pm, with the result announced around 9pm. Johnson has just met his MPs and longtime Miller and Times lobby journalist Patrick Maguire reports that when the prime minister was asked about the conduct described in Sue Gray’s report, he told them: "I'd do it again”. Bury North MP James Daly — who is defending the thinnest majority in the country — told the Guardian’s Helen Pidd that he was sticking with Johnson, but Helen’s piece suggests many local voters are less supportive.
This week, we have an in-depth story for Mill members about the struggles of the Royal Exchange coming out of the pandemic, which we discussed in our podcast this weekend. We’ve been speaking to lots of sources about the theatre, including staff who were laid off in large numbers and the theatre’s leadership team. Email email@example.com if you have something to add, and join us now as a member to get that reporting, plus a great read on FC United of Manchester.
At the weekend, we published a lovely, elegiac piece by Dani, who went up Oldham Road in search of its lost pubs. Along the way, she met 70-year-old Elaine Daly, who remembers drinking in 20 of these establishments and had some colourful stories to tell. The piece prompted a few memories from our readers, including Tudor, who asked in the comments:
Can anyone remind me of the name of the Irish pub on Booth Street West? Much frequented by the Business School students and staff in the 1970s. Their wakes were spectacular!
If you know the answer, pop an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org. And join up as a member to join the discussion under our stories — we’ve had some fantastically in-depth comments recently.
This week’s weather
Our local weatherman Martin Miles is forecasting “a warm but unsettled week ahead with windy conditions developing later on.”
Tuesday 🌦 Warm with occasional sunshine despite large amounts of cloud. Risk of a few showers later in the day. Max 20°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Unsettled with sunshine and heavy showers. Longer spells of rain will be possible. Still warm. Max 19°C.
Thursday ⛅️ Drier with hazy intervals of sunshine. Turning breezy with an increased risk of a shower. Max 20°c.
Friday 🌦 Windy with sunshine and heavy showers. Driest in the east. Max 19°c.
Weekend Remaining changeable with temperatures in the high teens.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Are we getting a city centre Clean Air Zone?
Top line: You may remember the “red line” drawn by Andy Burnham on the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) last month. Attempting to shift the political responsibility for the delayed and highly controversial scheme back onto the government, the mayor said Greater Manchester wouldn’t accept a plan that charges drivers of polluting vehicles: “if that is what the government wants, it will have to impose it on us”.
Well, that’s what they want. Last week the environment secretary George Eustice sent a letter to Burnham suggesting a “highly targeted” CAZ that still charges vehicles but only those driving in the city centre, not across the 500 square miles of GM.
The letter calls for a category C charging CAZ, which means it will charge buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, HGVs, vans, and minibuses driving in the city centre.
Remember: it was the geographic breadth of the original proposal that riled so many small business owners in areas like Bolton and Stockport. It also brought the charges into the constituencies of some very unhappy Conservative MPs.
Burnham now wants a category B non-charging CAZ, meaning drivers of those vehicles (minus vans and minibuses) across GM would instead be offered incentives to upgrade their vehicles to cleaner models. Eustice said there was “little robust evidence” that switching charges to incentives would help lower pollution levels.
While the letter is a knockback to the mayor’s new plan (he said he was extremely disappointed, and that the government were “seeking to dismiss” his proposal) he likely sees the letter as a personal win. Burnham has taken the majority of the flak for the charging CAZ, despite it resulting from a ministerial directive. On Twitter he said:
Finally the Government has been forced to tell the truth — they are the ones insisting on a charging Clean Air Zone including vans and taxis.
The mayor says the government’s proposals show a lack of understanding of Manchester’s economy, since many HGVs and other polluting vehicles from across GM trade in the city centre, so a city centre CAZ would still mean 80,000 drivers would be charged and businesses hurt.
State of play: this all remains undecided. The GMCA is yet to propose its revised scheme to the government, which will be submitted in July. It needs to prove that a non-charging CAZ could still bring air pollution down by the mid-2020s.
Cue the sceptics: Oliver Lord, head of the Clean Cities Campaign, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the government was right to target the city centre, where most of the air pollution is isolated. He also agreed with sticking to a charging CAZ: "the government's position is unsurprising given that a Clean Air Zone without charges would do very little to improve air quality.”
Local Tory MPs and councillors, whose local election campaigns leant on scrapping CAZ charges, have also come out in support of a charging CAZ covering the city centre. James Grundy, Conservative MP for Leigh, said it would come as a “huge relief” to small businesses in boroughs like Wigan and Bolton, “which should never have been included in the zone in the first place". One Tory councillor in Bolton said the CAZ was “dead”.
Home of the week
This lovely 2-bed flat in Stockport sits inside a former mill. It features tall windows, exposed brickwork and good-sized bedrooms. It’s on the market for £200,000.
Your Mill news briefing
Metrolink announced it is scrapping one-day travel cards from its app in a bid to stop fare evasion. They say that people are only buying tickets on the app when they see ticket inspectors boarding trams, and are otherwise travelling for free. The change will mean commuters will be forced to use the service’s tap-in-tap-out system, which many on Twitter — and in The Mill office — find to be easily forgettable, with many tapping in but not tapping out. When that happens, there’s a £4.60 incomplete journey charge, which is tough to pay if you only went to the next stop. Metrolink says it will be improving signage to remind people to tap out, but many have also pointed out how few tap-out points there are at stations, and the bottlenecks that form around them at peak times.
A city of firsts… A Manchester takeaway owner has become the first director to be disqualified for abusing the furlough scheme. It was found that Ifraz Nabi — sole director of New York Krispy Fried Chicken in Levenshulme — wrongly claimed a total of £50,000 in pandemic support. Nabi has been banned from running companies for seven years.
Nearly 50 council buildings in Bolton contain asbestos. The Trade Union Congress found that the council is managing asbestos in 48 of its buildings, and is calling for legislative changes that would make it compulsory for local authorities to remove asbestos from their buildings entirely.
You'll be relieved to hear that the wooden platform covering half of Piccadilly Gardens was open to the public for Platinum Jubilee celebrations over the weekend, and will now return to being inaccessible for the majority of the year. The Manchester Flower Show was in full bloom throughout the city with ten displays, all paying tribute to the Queen's service. And, beacons were lit across GM, including in St Peter's Square.
Our favourite reads
Britain’s homeless services are stripped to the bone — The Big Issue
Investigative journalist Daniel Lavelle writes about his experience of homelessness and that of 18-year-old Louis in Oldham — many people are failed as they are deemed homeless, but “not homeless enough.” “Louis had been diagnosed with ADHD when he was young and had left school with no qualifications and as many job prospects. After his mum kicked him out, he visited Oldham’s Civic Centre to seek help with his housing, where he participated in Pauper Idol — officially known as a homelessness application. Louis’ audition wasn’t good enough for the judges.”
‘I was enslaved and tortured but escaped North Korea twice’ — The Telegraph
Jihyun Park’s memoir The Hard Road Out was published last week. This Telegraph article outlines her harrowing escape from North Korea, and how she found refuge here. “After nine months in temporary accommodation in Greater Manchester, she and Kwang-hyun Joo were moved to their first home: an empty shell without heating, with one blanket between the four of them. When they went to the council for help, people were ‘really kind’, Park recalls, arranging a translator for the family, who could not speak English and had no mobile phone”.
‘There are no bad kids. Just kids making bad choices’ — The Guardian
We enjoyed this Guardian column, which met Mark Bracewell, who grew up on a Moss Side estate in the 1980s. “When he was 13, he watched members of a gang hack a man to death in a pub with a machete. The following year, his friend Benjamin was murdered in a takeaway. The killers were never found.” At 26, he robbed a taxi driver at gunpoint. He’s now an anti-knife crime campaigner and speaks to schoolchildren about his life and his mistakes.
An interview with Tim Parks — The New Yorker
This 2015 interview with Manchester-born novelist Tim Parks discusses his short story for the magazine, Vespa, which follows the relationship between Mark, who is from a white middle-class family in Manchester, and Yasmin, the daughter of Brazilian immigrants. “Is the city you describe Manchester, or a fictional version of it?” asks Deborah Treisman. “Here, Manchester is an entirely neutral place, any city in any part of the West. I hardly describe it at all. The name is there simply to satisfy the reader that we’re located, get the problem out of the way,” Parks replies.
Thanks to Sharmaine, our very first photographer at The Mill (@shinyshoe on Instagram) for letting us share this great photo of Oldham’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations over the weekend. This procession was “inspired by the true story of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, capturing the opulence, colour and vibrancy of the Sikh empire in India.”
☕ Want to chat?
As journalists, it’s important that we meet the people and communities we serve and write about. If you have a story or some information you’d like to share in confidence, do come into our office on St Ann’s Square for a cup of tea. You can find us at:
The Mill, 537 Royal Exchange, Old Bank Street, Manchester, M2 7DH. We are on the fifth floor.
If the city centre’s too far for a visit, you can email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or send tip-offs to the address above. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with sensitivity.
Our to do list
🏫 There’s a panel event about “The Rise and Rise of Stockport”, addressing the borough’s recent regeneration efforts. Speakers include Elise Wilson, who until recently was the Labour leader of the council. Starts 6pm at Shopblocks. Book here.
🏔 Two men, Dan and Boff, have run across Manchester and its wild places. But what are they really running from? In “These Hills Are Ours”, a story told through song, all is revealed. Starts 8pm at Oldham Library. Book here.
🌊 There’s an interesting walking tour with the Science and Industry Museum about the power of water and how it shaped Manchester. Meet at the main entrance of the Central Library. Starts 11am. Book here.
🗿 Professor David Olusoga will be at Manchester Central Library to discuss “statue wars”, and why statues — even if highly contested — matter. Olusoga recently appeared as an expert witness for the defence in the trail of the ‘Colston four’ in Bristol. Starts 1.30pm. Book here.
✏ Longtime Miller and artist Len Grant is holding an “absolute beginners’” urban sketching workshop on Saturday. He promises you’ll “soon be hooked.” Starts 10am, meet at Oppidan Social. Book here.
🌲 Mauricio Ye’kuana, a Brazilian activist and indigenous leader of the endangered Yanomami community, is speaking on Saturday at the Science and Industry Museum. The event will take place alongside world-renowned photographer Sebastião Salgadgo’s Amazônia exhibition, which we highly recommend. Book here.
That’s it, you’re all caught up and ready for the week.