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MP tours our pioneering environmental research facilities

26 Mar 2024

Afzal Khan visited newly redeveloped Firs Environmental Research Station and Manchester Air Quality Supersite

Hugh Coe and Afzal Khan

Our University hosted Afzal Khan MP on a visit to the Firs Environmental Research Station, which recently completed a £2 million redevelopment.

Mr Khan, who has represented Manchester Gorton in Parliament since 2017, also toured the Manchester Air Quality Supersite – one of the largest locations in the UK dedicated to air quality research – and took part in a roundtable discussion with senior academics.

Supported by the University’s endowment fund, the Firs upgrade delivered state-of the-art greenhouse facilities that support expert research on food security and climate change.   They comprise 14 climate controlled growing compartments which simulate an assortment of different growing environments around the world ranging from tropical to sub-arctic.

The Manchester Air Quality Supersite, also located on the University’s Fallowfield campus, is home to a mobile research laboratory that gathers detailed data on the contents of harmful urban air pollution.  It is one of three air quality supersites across the UK established as part of a £6 million investment by the Natural Environment Research Council. 

Mr Khan was welcomed by Professor Hugh Coe, Professor Giles Johnson, Professor Sheena Cruickshank and Dr Oliver Hughes, who all joined the roundtable discussion.

Professor Coe, a Professor of Atmospheric Composition and Director of the Manchester Environmental Research Institute, said: “It was a pleasure to meet Mr Khan and lead the tour of the Manchester Air Quality Supersite which has the capability to work out where the gases and particles that pollute our air are coming from and how they form.

“We are immensely proud of the role The University of Manchester plays in this area of academic research and the potential this work has to reduce air pollution on a global scale.”

Professor Cruickshank, a Professor in Biomedical Sciences and Public Engagement, recently published an article on the Policy@Manchester website addressing how better community engagement can encourage more people to use modes of ‘active transport’ – such as walking and cycling – and reduce air pollution in high risk areas.  

She said: “My colleagues and I regularly engage with policymakers.  Having an opportunity to brief Mr Khan on our ongoing activities and exchange ideas was a useful part of this process.

“Greater Manchester has among the worst levels of pollution in the UK, with poor air quality estimated to contribute to around 1,200 premature deaths each year in the city region. That is a shocking statistic which underscores how important it is to involve local communities in the drive to reduce the impacts of air pollution.” 

Mr Khan said: “It was a privilege to visit the Firs Environmental Research Station and the Manchester Air Quality Supersite which are shining beacons in climate change and air quality research. My roundtable meeting also provided a fascinating insight into the many research activities taking place on-site.

“We face huge global climate challenges, and it is heartening to see the work going on here in Manchester to formulate evidence-based solutions to help address them. I thank the University’s policy engagement unit, Policy@Manchester, for putting such an interesting programme together.”