LEZ plans ‘will benefit tourists over residents’

Friday July 19th 2019

Edinburgh LEZ

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

Transport chiefs have been accused of creating a “two-tier” Capital where tourists will breathe cleaner air than residents under proposals to tackle air pollution.

Environmental campaigners have blasted draft plans by the city council to establish a low emission zone (LEZ) in Edinburgh, as required by the Scottish Government.

The council’s city centre LEZ proposals, which exclude Queen Street, Holyrood Road, Melville Drive and Haymarket, would lead to all vehicles that don’t meet emission standards facing hefty fines for entering the zone. But as the plans stand, cars will have until 2024 and possibly 2025 to meet standards – while buses and commercial vehicles will need to be upgraded by 2021.

A citywide LEZ, which under draft proposals does not include cars at all, will give buses and commercial vehicles until 2023 to comply with before being fined.

Studies have found that around 80 per cent of nitrogen oxide concentrations are directly attributed to traffic emissions – while air pollution causes 200 early deaths each year in Edinburgh.

Gavin Thomson, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The two-tier plans could mean tourists and shoppers will be breathing cleaner air in the city centre while people in residential areas could experience more traffic and air pollution as vehicles avoid the tiny city centre zone.

“Everyone in Edinburgh has a right to breathe safe air now, yet these plans will only begin to clear the air in one part of the city. Seemingly, the council decided that some people in Edinburgh are more worthy of protection from air pollution than others.”

He added: “This lacklustre zone has been designed to achieve the bare legal minimum on diesel pollution, an objective which should have been met back in 2010.

“The council has opted for the slowest possible lead-in times, meaning that it will be six years before any restrictions are applied to cars. It looks like they have prioritised not upsetting car owners above improving tackling dirty air to the benefit of all Edinburgh’s people.”

Edinburgh currently has six council designated air pollution zones, where air quality standards are not met. In addition, Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed four locations across the city with illegal pollution levels in 2018.

Green Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “The city urgently needs to get on the front foot on air pollution. However, that LEZ needs to be meaningful and some of the issues about what is in and out of scope for the city centre, such as the exclusion of very busy areas like Queen Street and Haymarket, is down to the proposal not to include cars in the wider city zone.

“The council still has a job to do to convince natural supporters that the right balance has been struck, but I look forward to those discussions and to seeing a LEZ come into force, alongside other plans to dramatically cut traffic in our congested city.”

Members of the public have until Sunday (21) to share their views on the LEZ plans. More than 2,000 people have registered their views since the councillaunched the consultation in June.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “The city centre boundary aims to tackle the worst concentrations of air pollution in a densely populated area and we are confident that proposed grace periods allowing drivers to adapt to changes, along with a range of projects improving active travel facilities and public transport access, will help smooth the transition in coming years.

“On a wider scale, the city wide boundary will tackle the impact of those vehicles that tend to make multiple trips and are responsible for the highest levels of pollution. We understand that necessary changes are difficult to contemplate for many people but we cannot ignore this major health issue.”

To take part in the consultation, visit consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk

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