DIESEL drivers in Edinburgh are to be charged more for parking permits after councillors agreed to push forward plans for a surcharge in its bid to make the city greener.
They will form part of the city council’s action plan to tackle air pollution – alongside other touted measures including a Low Emission Zone.
Fumes from diesel, most notably nitrogen dioxide, cause around 71,000 premature deaths a year across Europe including 11,940 in the UK.
The council rejected a proposed amendment by the Conservatives to put a potential diesel surcharge on hold – after claiming a public consultation showed “a firm majority against its introduction”.
It is estimated that 8,000 parking permits were issued for diesel vehicles last year out of a total 28,526 parking permits issued in Edinburgh.
No decision has been taken on how much the diesel surcharge will be but the number of bands covering emissions to vehicles will be changing from five to seven.
Central zones permit holders will see an average increase of 8.5 per cent. Currently, the cheapest residents’ parking permit is the band ‘non-central zone’ which costs £35.50. This is reducing to £30.30.
The most expensive is band 7 in central zone at £499. This is going up to £547.90.
A public consultation by the council, which had 5,412 responses, found that 43 per cent of people strongly opposed to a diesel surcharge being introduced on residents’ parking permits.
It revealed that only 18 per cent were strongly supportive of it, 14 per cent supported it and 16 per cent opposed it.
Conservative Cllr Nick Cook, who put forward the amendment, accused the council of imposing a “double-whammy” on motorists with the cost of some permits set to rise, along with new pay and display charges on Sundays in some parts of the city centre.
He added: “It’s insulting for residents. Many people made these purchases [of diesel vehicles] in good faith.”
“We are jumping the gun to impose an additional charge on them.”
But Green Cllr Chas Booth said the diesel surcharge was “sending a strong signal” about the council’s intent to tackle air pollution.
He added: “We cannot tackle air pollution with one single measure. The principle of this diesel surcharge is right.”
Convener of the council’s Transport and Environment Committee, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said that failing to act on the dangers of diesel emissions would be “a turning back of the clock”.
She added: “This is one measure in a raft of measures we are looking at.”
Further work will now be put together by officers as to how the surcharge will be put into action.
A report to councillors added: “The committee had approved the proposal for resident permits to change from a 5-band system of permit pricing to a 7-band system, on the basis that this would protect and reward the owners of the most environmentally friendly vehicles.
“Of those permit holders who will see increases in their permit costs, many will experience only a moderate rise, with the highest increases being applied to the most polluting vehicles. For permit holders in Zones 1 to 4, permit prices will generally rise compared to existing prices, partly as a result of the revised banding system, but also as a result of the increasing costs associated with Sunday parking.
“Those who already have more environmentally friendly vehicles will see a benefit from their vehicle choice, whilst those with more polluting vehicles will see their permit prices increase.”
The diesel surcharge was welcomed by environmental campaigners. Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland described it as a “big victory for cleaner air and one of many measures being considered to tackle air pollution”.
She added: “We would like to see more on street bike parking and charging points to complement this policy.”
The council also agreed that the legal process to introduce Sunday parking restrictions and to roll out shared parking and visitor permits would begin next month ahead of August’s committee meeting for detailed proposals.