UN set to probe pollution claims over tram project

The trams finally ran at their Gogar base earlier this week
The trams finally ran at their Gogar base earlier this week
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A UNITED Nations committee will scrutinise the environmental impact of the Edinburgh trams project over claims the works have led to a substantial increase in pollution levels.

The Aarhus Compliance Committee will hear evidence from campaigners in Geneva tomorrow who believe the scheme has led to a rise in pollution in residential areas.

The project has led to the diversion of thousands of vehicles every day, which now pass through residential streets rather than commercial areas.

The Moray Feu Residents Association, which represents households in the New Town, argues increased pollution and noise levels will have an adverse impact on the health of local people which the city council hasn’t taken seriously.

However, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman rejected the claims in June and sided with the city council.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport and environment convenor told the Evening News: “This has been extensively looked at by independent witnesses who found there was no scientific support for the claims they [the Moray Feu group] were making on air quality in the area.”

The Aarhus Convention exists to give the public a stronger voice on environmental matters, and although its findings are not binding the committee is regarded as highly influential.

Local resident Dr Ashley Lloyd claimed the pollution would “degrade the operation of the city”.

He said: “The centre of Edinburgh is a very small place and people live and work very close together.

“What this policy does is it takes the commercial traffic from the centre and puts it through residential areas 24/7.

“That’s more noise, more pollution and it degrades the operation of the city.”

Alistair MacIntosh, local resident and retired engineer, added: “Our message will be that we have not been fairly treated, that we have not been given the opportunity to explain our case to an independent third party.

“The council are acting as judge and jury.

“We have not been given essential environmental information relating to the pollution from the traffic which has been driven through the residential streets and we have not been allowed to really participate in decision making.”

A spokesman for the city council said: “We are confident that consultation with all stakeholders, including local residents, was, and continues to be, carried out as required.

“Indeed, the residents concerned lodged similar complaints with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, all of which were rejected and found in the council’s favour earlier this year.

“In response to their specific concerns relating to air quality, the council agreed to establish additional monitoring sites in the area in 2010. The results indicated that levels were within EU target values.”