Council wants greener policies to reduce pollution

The council wants to make the city centre more 'walker-friendly'. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
The council wants to make the city centre more 'walker-friendly'. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
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AN ECO-FRIENDLY vision ­mapping out a cleaner, greener future for the Capital, has been drawn up by city leaders.

Slashing pollution levels and achieving other environmental targets set by the Scottish Government are key aims for the Capital in the coming years, so city officials were asked to do some green-sky thinking to help meet the challenges ahead.

The council wants to roll out a network of electric car charging points across the city. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The council wants to roll out a network of electric car charging points across the city. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Highlights of key initiatives to be rolled out across the city include encouraging more council workers to work from home, with the aim of cutting down on car pollution and fuel bills, while also rolling out a network of electric car charging points.

Other actions include making the city centre and main shopping areas more “walker-friendly” by dropping kerb stones, fixing, shoddy cracked pavements and installing more pedestrian crossings.

Each of the new measures will augment city centre low emission zones (LEZs) – where owners of cars and lorries that spew exhaust fumes above set carbon limits will be fined by a new, yet-to-be-unleashed ­enforcer – “the eco-meanie”.

The council is bound by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which requires Scotland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 – targets also since adopted by Edinburgh council.

Last night, the vision was praised by green bodies such as Friends of the Earth Scotland and Living Streets Scotland.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Edinburgh’s new transport strategy is a forward-looking document which includes a lot of good environmental initiatives. The introduction of 20mph zones, better and cleaner buses and the new trams will all help ­deliver a cleaner, greener city.”

Yet while welcoming the city’s commitment to air ­quality, Ms Hanna went on to request a set deadline for action: “Air pollution in ­Edinburgh continues to be a serious challenge, with ­dangerously high levels of pollution in hot spots such as on St John’s Road, Queensferry Road, and Salamander Street. We welcome the Local ­Transport Strategy’s commitment to achieving Scottish air ­quality standards, but ideally we would have liked to see a ­stated deadline by which air quality standards would be met.”

City transport and environment convener Lesley Hinds, said Edinburgh is part of a pan-European push for better air quality.

She added: “We’re making it even easier to swap your commute-by-car for cycling or walking thanks to our continued and much-praised commitment to invest a significant proportion of our transport budget towards active travel improvements. This will certainly have a further positive impact on air quality.

“In addition, through a new travel planning service we’ll be liaising with Edinburgh employers to encourage them to follow the council’s lead in reducing the need for employees to travel, for example by encouraging home or remote working.”

Pedestrian priority to encourage walking

MEASURES to encourage walking – the ultimate form of green transport – will include repairing cracked and shoddy paving.

In addition kerbs will be dropped and road crossings improved.

Inconsiderate parking on footpaths, junctions and crossings will also be cracked down on while long lengths of guardrail on shopping streets are to be ditched as they’re seen as a nuisance to shoppers.

Pedestrians are also to be given greater priority when crossing the road at junctions and traffic lights with a pilot “X” crossing as seen in the US to be installed at a major city junction.

Access is also to be improved to Waverley and Haymarket stations for those on two feet. The package of measures will help make the city centre more foot friendly – a step applauded by Keith Irving, Head of Living Streets Scotland, who said: “More people walk in Edinburgh than anywhere else in Scotland and the council has the opportunity to be a leader, not just in Scotland but across Europe in creating a walkable city with better quality of life.

“Guardrails should only be retained where there is clear evidence of safety benefits while dropped kerbs and raised crossings should be provided to make it easier for everyone, regardless of ability, to get around their community.

“We welcome the ongoing support of the council for action on bad parking and will continue to work at a national level to give the council greater powers to tackle inconsiderate parking.”

Staff prompted to work from home

COUNCIL workers will be encouraged to consider working from home as city chiefs look to reduce the number and length of trips during rush hour.

Commuting and business travel account for almost a quarter of all travel in the city – contributing greatly to weekday congestion and air pollution.

As one of the city’s biggest employers, council chiefs hope to set an example for others to follow.

A travel planning officer role will be created to help pinpoint who could benefit from home or remote working.

The key figure will also work with local businesses to help promote the practice within their own workforce.

In addition, last April, the council announced plans to streamline its property portfolio, saving about £50 million in the process. Up to 75 properties are to be sold off in an effort to slash its annual running costs by 15 per cent over the next three years.

The council, which currently owns and occupies more than 500 properties around the Capital, believes this presents “a clear opportunity” to change staff members’ work styles and travel habits.

A national and area-wide marketing campaign is also to be implemented encouraging those who attend the Capital on business to walk around the compact city centre.

Park-and-ride facilities on the edge of the city are also to be highlighted. Local tourist bodies, Marketing Edinburgh, event organisers and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre are to be approached to help provide visitor information.

More electric car charging points

AN increased network of electric car charging points are to be installed across the Capital as part of the Government’s ambitious “electric revolution”.

At present there are just 24 locations across Edinburgh where people can plug in cars. Under the five-year plan this number is to be significantly increased. The council also plans to purchase more electric vehicles for its fleet – Lord Provost Gordon Wilson has already stated his intention to swap his civic BMW for an eco car. However, while praising the city’s initiative, Keith Irving, of Living Streets Scotland, voiced concerns over “silent” electric cars. “Electric vehicles have a role to play in tackling air pollution though we support the campaign for artificial noise to be added to all electric and hybrid vehicles.” He said: “This will make our streets safer.”

Road surfaces that reduce noise

TRAFFIC noise is another key issue to be tackled – with the use of special, silent road surfaces probed.

Cutting edge road surfacing materials – such as whisper concrete and porous asphalt, which can greatly reduce the noise of cars and lorries – are to be trialled. Noise from major roads such as the City Bypass is also to be dealt with through the proposed erection of noise barriers. Where physical calming cannot be used, reducing speed limits could be looked at. Last year a pioneering Transport Scotland trial saw asphalt containing shredded rubber used on one of the busiest roads in Scotland between Perth and Dundee. Tests revealed it was much quieter.

Rewards for hauliers on right track

TRANSPORT chiefs have also renewed their backing for a scheme which rewards hauliers and coach operators who “go green”.

Ecostars is a voluntary scheme for HGV, bus and coach companies whose fleets regularly use Capital streets.

Ecostars rates individual vehicles using a star rating system and provides guidance on best practice to company bosses. Benefits can include reduced fuel costs and emissions.

It has been shown, by adopting the scheme’s recommendations, a typical HGV operator can expect to reduce fuel consumption by a minimum of five per cent in the first year.

Expanding the star system then is seen as a crucial plank to the green transport strategy. Members include the council, Sainsbury’s, Gregg’s, Lothian Buses, Noble Foods, Maynes Coaches and DHL.