LORRIES which do not meet strict emissions standards could be banned from parts of Edinburgh in a crackdown on pollution.
Latest monitoring figures show air quality in the Capital is getting better, but still falling short of European targets, which have to be met by 2015.
Now council chiefs are looking at the idea of “low emission zones” (LEZs), where lorries and vans which do not conform to tough exhaust emission limits face a ban or a hefty fine.
CCTV cameras and an automatic number plate recognition system could be used to enforce the system.
New pollution monitoring sites are to be set up after latest figures showed the city is not hitting air quality targets.
Edinburgh has three official “air quality management areas” – the city centre; St John’s Road, Corstorphine; and Great Junction Street, Leith – designated because of high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide from vehicle exhausts.
Latest monitoring results show pollution levels have improved but are still too high in all three areas.
Nitrogen dioxide levels outside these areas are also breaking the limits, so the designated areas in the city centre and Leith are now to be extended and a new one declared in Newbridge.
In the city centre, the pollution levels were exceeded at Easter Road, London Road, and in the Grassmarket and Cowgate. In Leith, the designated area will now include Bernard Street.
Excess nitrogen dioxide levels were also found at the Inverleith Row/Ferry Road junction.
In addition, there will be new monitoring sites to focus on pollution at Inverleith Park, Portobello Road, Queensferry Road, and Angle Park Terrace.
Environment convener Lesley Hinds said there had been improvements in some areas, but there was still a problem with air quality in the city.
“The way we are going at the moment, we are not going to meet these targets,” she said.
She said it was the UK Government which would be penalised by Europe if the 2015 targets were not achieved.
She said the council hoped to learn from cities such as London, which had introduced LEZs.
“It’s a way of getting older vehicles and vehicles which are causing pollution out of the areas where we have a problem with air quality.
“Companies will upgrade their delivery lorries and vans because of LEZs and send their older vehicles to places which don’t have LEZs.”
Other measures are also being examined to try to cut air pollution.
Lothian Buses, the area’s biggest bus operator, has already improved emissions from its vehicles and is using its cleanest buses on its busiest routes. Discussions are continuing with the second-biggest bus operator, First Scotland (East), about improving the emissions standards of its fleet.
The council is trying to make its vehicles greener and it plans to use sophisticated traffic control technology, linking pollution sensors to traffic signals in a bid to minimise emissions.
Fumes inflame lining of lungs
Nitrogen dioxide comes from vehicle exhausts.
The main effect of breathing in raised levels of nitrogen dioxide is the increased likelihood of respiratory problems. It inflames the lining of the lungs, and can reduce immunity to lung infections. This can cause problems such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu and bronchitis.
Increased levels of nitrogen dioxide can have significant effects on people with asthma, causing more frequent and more intense attacks. Children with asthma and older people with heart disease are most at risk.