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M60 expansion plans too damaging to public health

14 November 2013
Campaigners have welcomed the shelving of plans for more lanes on a section of the M60 in Greater Manchester.

Launching a consultation on plans for the M60, the Highways Agency has ruled out hard shoulder running between junctions 8 and 18 because of the detrimental impact it would have on air quality. The Agency’s environmental assessment concluded that allowing more cars to use the road between Sale and Swinton would breach UK and EU standards protecting public health and the natural environment.

Alan Andrews, environmental lawyer at ClientEarth said

"The Highways Agency deserve credit for getting this one right. Air pollution in Manchester is already way above legal limits, and it’s the same story in towns and cities throughout the UK. That’s why we’ve been fighting a three year legal battle with the Government, which finally resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that the UK was breaking the law earlier this year. It seems that ruling is starting to have a real effect on the ground."

Alan Andrews continued

"All arms of government have a legal duty to ensure these limits are met as soon as possible. That means that at the very least they can’t do anything which makes air quality worse."

Sian Berry, coordinator of Campaign for Better Transport’s Roads to Nowhere campaign said

"With this decision the Highways Agency has explicitly acknowledged that laws designed to protect peoples' health and the environment prevent them from opening the hard shoulder to extra traffic."
Sian Berry continued

“Dropping plans to widen this section of the M60 is great news for everyone who lives near the road. This should be a precedent-setting decision by the Highways Agency. Public health should always be put above cramming yet more cars onto our roads. The Government wants to pour billions into new road building and we need proper scrutiny of the impacts this will have on health and our environment.”

This decision could have repercussions for a number of other contentious road schemes where potential health impacts have already been identified. These include:

A14 Cambridgeshire - Proposals include plans for new lanes to be added to the existing road in areas already identified as being close to legal limits

A556 Knutsford bypass - The Highways Agency's environmental assessment of the proposed bypass identifies a 'significant adverse' impact on air quality including passing environmental thresholds.

Silvertown Tunnel / Gallions Reach Bridge - plans would push more traffic into areas of London with some of the worst air quality in the UK.


1. The Highways Agency’s announced it has shelved plans to allow hard shoulder running (sometimes referred to as Smarter Motorways) in consultation document M60 junction 8 to M62 junction 20 Smart Motorway – Consultation document for statutory instrument.

Page 10 of the document contains the following statement:

“We looked extensively at the option to provide all-lane running on the M60 section between junctions 8 and 18. However, our environmental assessment concluded that creating this improvement would result in an increase in traffic using the motorway which would then have a detrimental affect [sic] on air quality. Poor air quality is a concern for the UK and across much of Europe, despite air being cleaner now than at any time since the industrial revolution.

There are UK and European standards designed to protect human health and sensitive ecological habitats which we cannot ignore; as a result we are unable to take this proposal of making the hard shoulder available to traffic on this section at this time. We are committed to delivering solutions to minimise the air quality impacts resulting from traffic using our network and are working to develop further solutions that will help improve this section of our network that comply with statutory air quality limits.”

The full Highways Agency document can be accessed on the www.gov.uk website.

2. On 1 May 2013, Client Earth won an appeal to the UK Supreme Court over air pollution, with the Court finding the Government in breach of article 13 of the EU Air Quality Directive.

Details of EU air quality standards are set out on the ec.europa.eu website.

Recent medical studies have highlighted the impact road traffic emissions can have on human health, including causing some cancers and low birth weights.

3. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

4. ClientEarth is an environmental law organisation and a member of the Healthy Air Campaign.