Edinburgh Low Emission Zone: Legal challenge to Glasgow LEZ could impact Edinburgh's plans
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Edinburgh’s transport convener has acknowledged that a legal challenge to Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone could hit the Capital’s plans if it succeeds.
The Glasgow scheme – the first in Scotland, introduced earlier this year – is to be subjected to a judicial review after a judge ruled that the case, taken by campaigners against the Scottish Government, met the "real prospect of success" test set down in law. It is due to go to court in October. And if the campaigners win, fines on motorists who drive the most polluting vehicles in the designated area could be scrapped.
Under Scottish Government plans, Edinburgh is due to introduce an LEZ here in June 2024, along with Dundee and Aberdeen. Cars which fail to meet the strict emission standards are due to banned from a 1.2 square mile area in the centre of the Capital in a bid to improve air quality.
But part of the Glasgow campaigners’ case is that air quality targets there were met in 2022 and they say the LEZ is “detrimental and redundant". In Edinburgh, the current legal air quality targets have also been met in most places, although these pollution levels are said to be up to five times over what the World Health Organisation recommends.
Judge Lady Poole gave permission for a judicial review of the Glasgow scheme, saying the case "raises an important matter of public interest". She said that interest included the "wider issues of air quality and climate change which underlie the matters challenged ... and the legality of the scheme".
Transport convener Scott Arthur said: “I have always been grateful that here in Edinburgh we have an extra year to work with residents and businesses to prepare for our LEZ being enforced. Within that context, I continue to monitor the roll-out of the LEZ in Glasgow with great interest, and this legal challenge is no exception, as it could impact on Edinburgh's plans if successful.
“The good news in Edinburgh is that the latest air quality data here shows that the vast majority of the Capital meets the minimum legal standards. To what extent this is due to the impact that the Covid lockdowns had, however, will only be confirmed when we see the data for 2023. I also accept that for children and people with respiratory problems simply meeting the minimum legal standard may not be good enough.
“And it should also be remembered that the minimum legal standards for air quality used in Scotland fall well short of guidance issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, which advises the UK Government on all matters concerning the health effects of air pollutants, has been very clear that the WHO guidance is suitable as a long-term target.”
Cllr Arthur did not elaborate on what the impact of a ruling against the Glasgow scheme might be for Edinburgh. But Tory group leader Iain Whyte said the implication could be that the Edinburgh LEZ would need to be scrapped.
He said: “The stated aim of the LEZ is to bring air quality within the legal requirements. The last time I saw data, the only place that was not meting requirements was on London Road and it’s not within the LEZ area. Arguably, if traffic is displaced out of the LEZ it’s likely to make it worse in areas like London Road which is a diversion round the LEZ.
“The LEZ will cost Edinburgh millions to set up, then £400,000 a year just to run the thing because there’s no real income from it. What’s the point in spending all that public money when we’re already meeting the stated aim and air quality is still getting better because vehicles are getting better? I think its a huge waste of public money. By the time we bring it in the air quality will already be better than it needs to be in Edinburgh under the current law and approaching what is projected as future limit.”