Call for caution as Capital’s air pollution falls

Air quality is improving in the Capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Air quality is improving in the Capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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AIR quality in the Capital is showing signs of improving – but it is important not to be “complacent”, a senior councillor has warned.

According to the latest figures, the overall level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is falling across Edinburgh, with a similar downward trend in the concentration of harmful microscopic “PM10” particles.

But some streets are still lagging behind, with the concentration of NO2 on a number of the Capital’s roads breaching national targets in 2015.

The figures have been released by the city council ahead of next week’s transport and environment committee.

Lesley Hinds, city transport leader, welcomed the news but added there was still more work to be done.

She said: “Although these figures are a welcome and very encouraging sign that our efforts to combat air pollution in Edinburgh are paying off, we cannot and must not be complacent.

“Air pollution remains one of the main threats to quality of life in Edinburgh and this council continues to work extremely hard to address pockets of poor air quality in the city.

“We are currently working on a range of projects to encourage sustainable transport and to improve our own fleet to reduce emissions.

“We monitor air quality continuously across the city and Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) enable us to direct actions more effectively at specific locations.”

The news comes as work is finalised on the introduction of a new air pollution monitoring zone in Salamander Street, Leith. The road has not met national targets since 2010 and the new AQMA will come into operation on January 20.

A number of the Capital’s other zones also recorded higher NO2 concentrations than the annual 40µg/m³ or less target in 2015.

These include West Port, St John’s Road, London Road/East Norton, Angle Park Terrace, Leith Street, Nicolson Street, Torpichen Place and Queensferry Road.

However, early council figures for 2016 suggest some of these, such as St John’s Street, are also beginning to improve.

Cllr Hinds said further efforts to reduce congestion would help continue this trend.

She added: “Measures to make walking, cycling and public transport as attractive as possible will greatly benefit the Capital’s air quality and quality of life.

“We’re delivering one of Scotland’s longest and most ambitious protected cycleway schemes in the city centre West to East Link and with ten per cent of the entire transport budget going on cycling projects in the coming financial year, we’re making significant investments in active travel provision.

“As well as reducing congestion through improved traffic flow, another key strand of our Air Quality Action Plan and Local Transport Strategy is promoting cleaner transport, especially buses.

“Lothian Buses, the largest bus provider in the Capital, has made great strides in making its fleet much more energy efficient.

“The company is also looking to introduce a number of electric-powered vehicles for use in the city centre, while other bus operators in the city have also made improvements to their fleets.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk