Edinburgh Low Emission Zone: All you need to know about Capital's ban on worst polluting vehicles

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Edinburgh’s Low Emission Zone comes into force on Saturday, June 1. So from that date, the worst polluting vehicles will be banned from a big chunk of the city centre.

Glasgow has already been implementing its LEZ - with the same rules as Edinburgh - and Dundee and Aberdeen are about to start enforcing their zones too.

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Unlike London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, the schemes in Scotland are not designed as a charge to be paid by motorists who choose to drive their vehicles into the designated area. Instead, they impose hefty fines on drivers who take vehicles which fail to meet the air quality standard into the zone.

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Here is everything you need to know about Edinburgh’s LEZ.

When does the LEZ start in Edinburgh?

The Capital’s LEZ was agreed by the council on March 31, 2022, but the plan included a two-year grace period to allow people to prepare. The LEZ was approved by the Scottish Government on May 19, 2022, and officially came into existence on May 31, 2022 - but the grace period means there has been no enforcement of it.

Enforcement will begin on Saturday, June 1, 2024. It will operate continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And fines will be issued from day one.

Enforcement of Edinburgh's LEZ starts on Saturday, June 1.Enforcement of Edinburgh's LEZ starts on Saturday, June 1.
Enforcement of Edinburgh's LEZ starts on Saturday, June 1. | TSPL

How will it be enforced?

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used to check vehicles inside the zone are entitled to be there.

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The council is not saying where the cameras are located, but they are not necessarily positioned at the boundaries of the zone - they could be anywhere within the area covered by the LEZ.

And it is understood much of the enforcement will be done by a mobile ANPR camera which will drive around inside the zone, checking number plates to see whether the vehicles meet the required air quality standards.

Where is the Low Emission Zone?

The LEZ covers a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre, stretching from Queen Street in the New Town to Melville Drive on the other side of the Meadows and from Palmerston Place at the west end to Abbeyhill and the Pleasance in the east - but these streets which mark the boundary remain outside the zone.

There were calls for a city-wide LEZ which would have seen buses and HGVs which failed to meet the emission standards banned from the entering the Capital at all. Cars which fell short of the required level would still have been allowed except in the city-centre zone.

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And some residents in Corstorphine were disappointed that their area - especially St John’s Road, often listed as one of the worst polluted streets in Scotland - was not included in the LEZ. But council bosses say modelling shows that the emission standards applied in the city centre will result in cleaner air in all parts of the city.

The LEZ covers a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre.The LEZ covers a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre.
The LEZ covers a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre. | City council

What vehicles are banned?

The ban on entering the LEZ covers vehicles which do not meet strict emissions standards. That will include most diesel cars and vans registered before September 2015 and most petrol cars and vans registered before January 2006.

But it is worth using the online vehicle checker to make sure whether your vehicle makes the cut because it can vary from one make and model to another.

Petrol and diesel taxis and private hire vehicles which do not meet Euro 6 emission standards will be banned from the LEZ. And HGVs, buses and coaches that fail to meet the Euro 6 standards – generally vehicles registered before January 2013 – will not be allowed in either. Motorcycles and mopeds are not affected.

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What are the penalties?

Fines for vehicles that enter the zone when they do not meet the standard are set at £60, but that is halved if the fine is paid within 30 days.

However, if motorists do it again within a 90-day period, the penalty roughly doubles each time – up to a maximum of £480 for cars and light commercial vehicles and £960 for heavy duty vehicles.

Are there exemptions?

Some vehicles will be allowed into the LEZ, whether they meet the standards or not. These include emergency vehicles; vehicles for people with disabilities, including people who have blue badges; military vehicles; historic vehicles; and showman’s vehicles.

These are national exemptions, set out in the LEZ legislation, and so apply across all of Scotland's LEZs, to make the rules consistent.

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What is the LEZ trying to achieve?

It’s all about reducing harmful emissions. City council transport convener Scott Arthur says latest data shows by and large Edinburgh meets the minimum standards set by the Scottish Government. But he says the city is not meeting the tougher guidelines set by the World Health Organisation. And he points out the NHS and health charities have given their backing to Edinburgh’s LEZ.

Cutting air pollution is especially important for vulnerable people, children, older folk and those with underlying health conditions.

Banning the most polluting vehicles is expected to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides from vehicles by up to 50 per cent within the LEZ. .

The LEZ is aimed at reducing harmful emissions in EdinburghThe LEZ is aimed at reducing harmful emissions in Edinburgh
The LEZ is aimed at reducing harmful emissions in Edinburgh | TSPL

How hard will it be to divert away from the LEZ?

Drivers with vehicles which do not meet the emission requirements will not be able to drive into or through the zone, so they will have to find alternative routes that go round it. The fact that the main roads which mark the boundary are not included in the zone should make this easier.

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But the council recognised there could be problems at certain points, so it has made changes to some roads to make it easier for motorists with non-compliant vehicles to move around without entering the zone.

Morrison Street is now two-way to all traffic between the Morrison Link/Morrison Street junction and the Dewar Place/Morrison Street junction. A right-hand turn has also been added from Morrison Link to Morrison Street eastbound.

At Tollcross, a diversion route for non-compliant vehicles will allow traffic to turn right from Home Street to Brougham Street. And in the Old Town, a new right turn filter has been added from the Pleasance to Holyrood Road.

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