Edinburgh's Low Emission Zone: City centre boundary could be changed after split public opinion

TRANSPORT officials are investigating whether a proposed city centre low emission zone (LEZ) could be altered after a consultation revealed the public are split on the current boundary.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 18:47 pm
Drivers have been warned they will have five years to scrap out of date cars to avoid hefty fines under draft proposals for a two-tier Low Emission Zone. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

The council is pressing ahead with proposals to introduce a LEZ to restrict the most polluting vehicles from the city. A citywide zone has been proposed for buses and commercial vehicles, while polluting cars will also be subject to a city centre zone – which doesn’t include Queen Street or Haymarket.

A report to the council’s transport and environment committee shows that “there are mixed views” on how the LEZ should be implemented. The public consultation, which took place between May and July, tallied up 2,793 responses, along with written submissions from other groups.

Officials say that the results show “broad support for the vehicle types to be included in the boundaries” but warned that “further refinement of the boundaries, particularly the city centre boundary, should be considered”.

Only 38 per cent of businesses support the city centre boundary – while 54 per cent of respondents said they support it and 46 per cent did not support it.

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Officials added: “The issues raised in relation to the boundary are being considered further and work is underway to better understand the air quality impact and options to address any negative impacts.

“Options could include amending the boundary and considering what wider measures could be implemented to manage emissions. It should be noted that within the city centre there are very few alternative route choices to those that have been proposed for the city centre boundary.”

But campaigners have called for cars to be included in the citywide LEZ and the boundary to be expanded.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner, Gavin Thomson, said: “Seventy-five per cent of people support a low emission zone to restrict the most polluting vehicles. There is support for ambitious proposals that would protect health, but the council has ducked the big decisions, by ignoring cars. The recent consultation showed that a majority of residents want to see the oldest cars restricted as part of the citywide LEZ. The council needs to recognise the need for action, and the support for ambition.

“With recent commitments from the Scottish Government on zero emission city centres by 2030, the council cannot let this chance pass. The LEZ is an opportunity to make the changes we need to see in Edinburgh. The oldest vehicles, including highly-polluting cars, must be restricted. The city-centre boundary must be expanded to avoid displacement of pollution into residential streets, and the timeline needs to be brought forward to create a cleaner, healthier city.”

Green councillors have also called for the council to be more ambitious.

Cllr Claire Miller, Green transport spokesperson, said: “The very small portion of the city centre which would be cordoned is just not enough.

“Edinburgh residents are currently living with illegal levels of air pollution and this council has a responsibility to act as soon as possible to make our air quality safe. The proposals do not go far enough and must be strengthened.”

A Council spokesperson said: “Edinburgh’s initial proposal includes applying the shortest time-frames available to introduce LEZs in the city centre and we are one of the only cities in the UK considering applying LEZs citywide. However, this is by no means final. We want to know what people think, which is why we consulted on all aspects of the proposals during the summer, receiving almost 2,800 responses, including 532 collected by Friends of the Earth.

“While we’re pleased to see broad support for proposed boundaries it’s essential that we address concerns raised – this is why we are working to further refine proposals, which was always our intention. The coming months will involve continued assessment work, fleet analysis and air quality and traffic modelling, taking into account consultation feedback, before we present revised LEZ plans to committee in February 2020.”