Article alert: “Climatic city: Two centuries of urban planning and climate science in Manchester (UK) and its region”

Always nice to get historical perspective, innit?

In 1852, the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association (MSSA; Gibson, 1972) took the lead in trying to enforce the (limited) legislation on smoke where-by factories could emit no more than 3 min per hour of thick black smoke (Platt, 2005, p.453). MSSA also brought the successful London Smoke Abatement exhibition, a display of smoke-free devices for the modern home and factory, to Manchester.  R.A.Smith joined the association in 1853, where, in an interesting linkage of air and water research, he investigated water quality in the Medlock and was also a member of an air pollution commission. MSSA soon became the Manchester and Salford Noxious Vapours Abatement Commission (MSNVAC), illustrating a redefinition of the sanitary away from the visible thick black smoke to the invisible evils of coal burning.  MSNVAC became the main vehicle of city reform, diffusing ideas on energy technology, public health, town planning and environmental justice (Platt, 2005, p.453).  It also formed an organisation covering all of Lancashire, the Lancashire Smoke Abatement League (Platt, 2005, p.457).

The transformations of climate caused by human activity were thus linked to the construction of a regional scale of environmental thought and action.  MSNVAC joined forces with the Manchester field naturalists society.  Through planting experiments, such as their bedecking of Albert Square with flowers in 1891 that soon wilted in the city’s noxious climate, they illustrated the harm caused to life by acid rain, a term coined in the city, proving the interdependence of health, city and nature, and linking this to new technologies that could reduce the impact of burning coal (Platt, 2005, p. 459). The commission also linked with Dr. Barclay, a chemist from the University of Manchester, an early example of the central role academic institutions of the city acquired in addressing climate concerns.  Barclay, in public lectures, projected graphs charting parallel lines of climatic and health conditions: the rising mortality in fog and smog, and the links with the reduction in sunlight and heightened levels of bacterial infection.

Where is this from?

Climatic city: Two centuries of urban planning and climate science
in Manchester (UK) and its region by Fionn Mackillop, to appear in the prestigious Cities journal soon. Here’s the abstract;

This paper traces the history, and current challenges, of climate science and urban design in Greater Manchester, UK. The Mancunian metropolis is a remarkable example of a climatic city, one that shapes its climate as much as it is shaped by it. From the efforts to control smoke and clear slums in the 19th century, to today’s race to be at the forefront of green and sustainable cities, climate is a central actor in Manchester’s history and will likely be so in the near future. We analyse the continuities and inflections of this history of climate science and urban planning in the metropolis by drawing on historical material and interviews with key local stakeholders, to understand the natural, social and political construction of this singular industrial ecology. Ultimately, we ask whether stakeholders in the Greater Manchester area can overcome existing challenges to go towards a greener, more resilient and sustainable city.

It’s a good read (and I am not just saying that because I’m quoted in it). If you want a copy of the whole article, then email
fionn.mackillop [at]

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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