Meet Wigan's first ever air quality officer

Matthew ONeill
Matthew ONeill

Wigan Council has appointed its first ever air quality officer as the authority continues to explore new and innovative ways of becoming greener and more sustainable.

Matthew O’Neill, formerly of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), has joined the authority and will be spearheading clean air efforts in the borough.

In his role, Matthew will be leading on the development and implementation of a range of air quality initiatives and putting his links to good use by working with colleagues locally and across Greater Manchester to deliver air quality improvements.

His appointment is the latest move in a long list of efforts made by Wigan Council as it aspires to be carbon-neutral by 2038 or sooner. Here he outlines his plans for the future...

“Tackling air quality and carbon emissions are two of the key challenges facing us, and here in Wigan we want to be an exemplar and leader in air pollution reduction.

"Every year polluted air is estimated to contribute to the equivalent of 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester and that’s 1,200 too many.

"As a council, we are obliged to ensure the borough becomes cleaner, greener and a safer place for residents so the air we breathe does not harm us and generations to come.

"In Wigan, we embarked on our clean air mission long ago and have taken a range of measures to become more environmentally friendly.

"Already this year, we have announced our aims for Makerfield Depot to be carbon-neutral in the next 18 months, opened a large stretch of the Bridgewater Canal towpath in Astley for cyclists and walkers and committed to taking urgent environmental action by declaring a climate emergency.

"But for us to be successful then we have to tackle this issue collectively and that is why we support the development of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.

"This summer, Wigan along with the nine other councils in Greater Manchester took part in a seven-week consultation on the development of a Clean Air Plan to gauge views of residents.

"We will soon be installing rapid chargers to encourage taxi drivers and residents to make the move to electric, engaging with more schools on anti-idling campaigns and adding one more automatic air quality monitoring station in Leigh.

"Every single one of us can take simple measures in our day-to-day lives to make a difference too.

"Just by deciding to walk or cycle those small 1km journeys to work and school then people can drastically cut down the amount of pollution made and reduce the exposure to others. But those who do need to drive then simple steps such as not leaving your engine running, driving smoothly and keeping tyres inflated will make a difference.

"Poor air quality is the invisible killer and a major health issue for us all. Residents have recognised that too in the recent Deal 2030 big listening event in which many told us that they want to see a greener borough with less pollution.

"This is why the council continues to accelerate efforts in ensuring it leads the way in GM and further-afield.”