Edinburgh council unveils final plans for Low Emission Zone

Vehicles which fail to meet strict emission standards are to be banned from a 1.2 square mile area of Edinburgh city centre under the final plans for the city’s Low Emission Zone unveiled today.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 2:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 5:22 pm

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The seven-days-a-week, round-the-clock restrictions are set to be introduced in May 2022, but there will be a two-year grace period and enforcement will only begin in June 2024, using Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras and mobile enforcement vehicles.

The ban will affect an estimated 20,000 vehicles in and around the Capital – diesel cars registered before September 2015 and petrol cars registered before January 2006, as well as HGVs and buses that do not meet the Euro VI emission requirements.

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Map showing the proposed boundaries of the LEZ

A 12-week consultation, which closed last month, drew more than 5,000 responses and the council said support was “mixed” with an even split between those in favour and opposed.

The boundary of the zone and length of the grace period were the main issues raised.

No changes are being recommended to the scheme, but the council says it will take measures like reconfiguring junctions and improving signage to deal with concerns.

The cost of the infrastructure for the scheme is being met by the Scottish Government, which is contributing £1,045,000 this financial year.

The planned Low Emission Zone would take in Edinburgh's South Bridge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson south bridge, edinburgh

But the council report on the LEZ said there remained a "substantial funding gap”, which transport convener Lesley Macinnes said was the estimated £400,000 per year running costs.

The rules will apply to all motor vehicles, except motorcycles and mopeds.

And there are nationally-set exemptions for emergency vehicles, blue badge holders and historic vehicles.

Fines for vehicles which enter the zone when they do not meet the standard are set at £60, though halved if paid within 30 days. But if they 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.

A Low Emission Zone will be in place in Edinburgh from 2024.

Councillor Macinnes stressed the scheme was not intended to generate revenue but to deter non-compliant vehicles from entering the city centre.

The plans are due to be approved by the transport committee next week.

There will then be a 28-day period for formal objections which could lead to a public hearing, but that might delay the scheme by up to six months.

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Councillor Macinnes said she hoped there would not be any further delay.

“We know there are approximately 300 deaths a year in Edinburgh alone from air pollution.

“The expectation pre-Covid was this would be in place by 2020 but I’m supremely conscious every month that goes by there’s another child with asthma, there’s another person suffering the ill effects of air pollution. That’s the driving force behind trying to get this in place.

"I very much hope this doesn’t become question of people objecting to it for the sake of giving the cuncil a bloody nose because the real purpose behind this is to improve the quality of life for everyone in the city – and who can object to cleaner air?

"People may object to the way we’re doing it, people may have concerns, they may have a lack of information or come it from a slightly different angle, but the principle of what we’re trying to do is one I cant imagine anybody would disagree with, which is we have to clean up the air in Edinburgh.

If vehicles do not comply with the emission standards, financial support is available for people on specific means-tested benefits within a 20km radius of the LEZ, including a £2,000 cash grant towards disposal of the vehicle and £1,000 Travel Better vouchers to pay for bus passes, train season tickets, new or used bikes or car club membership.

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