‘Targets must take account of local views’

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we suspect many readers will be surprised to hear that Edinburgh faces massive fines because it is in danger of breaking tough European pollution laws.

After all, most of us regard the Capital as a relatively clean and green city – certainly compared to those with more of a history of heavy industry.

But, as we report today, city chiefs are so worried about failing to hit 2015 targets that they are looking to pioneer pretty Draconian penalties on buses, lorries and other polluters.

Under the scheme, cameras will snap the licence plates of the worst offenders if they venture into “low emission zones”, and fines will be issued against them.

Only the worst petrol-head would argue against efforts to keep our air quality high, especially in a compact city like ours, where the main roads run through our neighbourhoods and past our schools.

But it doesn’t take a genius to point out the potential flaws in the proposed system. For one, how will a camera distinguish between a badly-maintained engine which pumps dirty fumes out of a small car and a well-serviced, and therefore greener, but bigger vehicle?

Faced with the prospect of EU fines, central government has too readily foisted responsibility for pollution on local authorities. It would make much more sense to set stricter UK-wide targets and toughen-up national industry standards and MOTs to make sure they are met.

But if there really must be local zones and targets then they must take account of the feelings of local residents and businesses.


the saga of the SoCo development in the Cowgate is an example of both the best and worst elements of our complex planning arrangements.

On the positive side, the fact that so many ordinary people and “opinion formers” like to have their voices heard shows how much they care about preserving our heritage.

In this case, local architects and others even went as far as to draw up their own plans to show how they thought those of the developers might be improved.

But the way that some critics have given their support, withdrawn it and then fallen out among themselves over it borders on the farcical. There are even claims of disagreement over whether Georgian detailing honours the original architecture or is just a pastiche.

Meanwhile, a great big gaping hole in the heart of the city goes unfilled and unloved. It makes you wonder how anything gets done.