Residents call for curb on cars as MSPs visit ‘most-polluted street’

Residents in Corstorphine say 'robust' policies are needed for St John's Road.
Residents in Corstorphine say 'robust' policies are needed for St John's Road.
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MSPs will today visit St John’s Road, Corstorphine, to hear from locals what it’s like to live on one of Scotland’s most polluted streets amid calls for curbs on vehicles in the area.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s environment committee are conducting an inquiry on air quality and say they want to find out first-hand how pollution affects people’s day-to-day lives.

The MSPs – who will get the bus to and from the visit – are due to meet children from Corstorphine Primary School, residents from The Cedars sheltered housing and representatives of Corstorphine Community Council.

The community council is calling for Edinburgh’s proposed Low Emission Zone - where vehicles which do not meet strict emission standards would be banned or forced to pay tolls – to include Corstorphine as well as the city centre.

And they list a congestion charge among a series of potential measures to tackle the problem.

In a written submission to the committee’s inquiry, the community council describes the Scottish Government plans to tackle pollution as “deeply inadequate” and says it needs to be “more robust and better resourced with stricter targets”.

The submission says Low Emission Zones (LEZs) are the most effective measure to cut air pollution.

The Scottish Government is planning LEZs for Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020.

Community council chairman Steve Kerr said: “In Edinburgh, the LEZ should include the west of the city as well as the city centre.”

The worst-polluting buses and lorries are likely to be hit first by an LEZ, but private cars would have to meet the standards sooner or later. The government has said there will be lead-in times to allow drivers the chance to manage the change.

St John’s Road was named Scotland’s most polluted street by Friends of the Earth last year and has regularly featured as one of the top two worst spots for air quality in the country.

The community council said house-building in the west of Edinburgh and expansion of Edinburgh Airport were likely to increase traffic and make pollution worse.

Mr Kerr said: “The community council recognises and supports the need for house-building and airport expansion in West Edinburgh to accommodate the city’s growth, albeit with appropriate consultation.

“This must be balanced with the application of measures which rigorously mitigate the inevitable increase in traffic volume and consequent increase in air pollution that is already unacceptably high and poses a serious health risk.”

During the visit, the MSPs will also see the air pollution monitoring equipment on St John’s Road, which was installed to monitor changes in nitrogen dioxide levels produced by vehicle engines.

Committee convener SNP MSP Graeme Dey said: “Our committee wants to hear the views of local folk who live, work or go to school near St John’s Road on air quality and how it impacts their everyday life.

“We all have a right to breathe clean air and no one should have to suffer because of traffic congested streets. Air pollution can be especially harmful to the young, the elderly and people with existing heart and lung conditions.

“As well as discussing the health and environmental impacts being experienced, we hope to explore the actions needed to tackle poor air quality and how to address these.”