Edinburgh's Low Emission Zone: Ban on most polluting vehicles approved by city council

Edinburgh’s controversial Low Emission Zone proposals have been signed off the council ready to go to the Scottish Government for approval.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 2:27 pm

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Transport convener Lesley Macinnes the 26 objections received were “a relatively low number” compared with the 140 Glasgow received for its scheme.

And she said all the concerns raised had been answered or dealt with.

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But Tory group leader Iain Whyte suggested approving the LEZ could breach the ban on councils publishing material on a matter of political or public controversy during an election period. “I wonder how were allowed to bring this at this stage. I certainly think it’s folly to be doing so.”

He said among the objectors were a number of community councils. “They are important groups and they’re raising important concerns,” he said. Yet their objections were being set aside.

Cllr Whyte argued the LEZ – which covers a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre – was poorly designed and would just move the pollution and congestion to the fringes of the zone. “It is very expensive – it will cost a lot to enforce, which we will have to find from another budget. And much of the change is going to happen anyway within a few years – it will be overtaken by the vehicle flee that’s out there in terms of quality of air. If we have to have an LEZ, we have to design something better.”

Liberal Democrat Kevin Lang claimed the reason there were so few objections was not because there was strong support for the scheme, but because at every single stage when the public had been asked their views, the council had gone against what they said. Not a single change had been made to the scheme in response to public comments or even the committee sending it back to be looked at again.

Map showing boundary of Low Emission Zone

“It’s little wonder that people haven’t bothered to lodge objections because it has been crystal clear for months and months that the administration was gong to pursue this flawed LEZ scheme irrespective of the quantity or quality of the objections.”

And he called for a “much stronger and more ambitious” scheme. "I think there are serious unaddressed issues around displacement of traffic and the potential for air quality to get worse in the streets immediately around the city-centre zone. I continue to have profound concerns we’re implementing a scheme which does nothing really for some of the most polluted streets in the city.”

Cllr Macinnes said the clear advice for officials was that approving the LEZ would not breach the law because it was the normal business of the council and “did not represent the position of any one political party”.

She said: “We have acknowledged in some spots there will be a slight increase in the amount of traffic as a result of displacement, but it will be temporary.”

The LEZ will ban vehicles which fail to meet strict emission standards

She said she had originally assumed a city-wide zone would be the most appropriate and effective. “I laboured under that misapprehension until the evidence came in. The evidence is that a correct approach is to tackle the city centre are and understand the knock-on benefits for the rest of the city.”

She also accepted technological developments in vehicles would have a positive impact on air quality. “But do e wait for these to emerge? I don’t think we have the time to do that.”

What the LEZ will mean for motorists

If the LEZ gets the go-ahead as planned, it will be introduced on May 31, but with a grace period of two years so enforcement would not begin until June 2024.

All motor vehicles, except motorcycles and mopeds, which fail to meet strict emissions standards will be banned from entering the zone. There are certain exemptions, including for blue badge holders and emergency 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 heavy goods vehicles and buses that do not meet the Euro VI emission requirements.

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