Edinburgh's Low Emission Zone plan for city-centre ban on worst-polluting vehicles 'could hit air quality in other city streets'

Council chiefs have been criticised over plans for Edinburgh’s Low Emission Zone amid concerns that banning the vehicles with the worst emissions from the city centre could mean more pollution on other city streets.

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Tories accused the SNP/Labour administration of just accepting the proposals drawn up by officials and failing to address the problem of traffic displacement, while Lib Dems argued for a city-wide zone to include the worst-polluted streets.

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Final proposals for the LEZ unveiled yesterday include a 24/7 ban on all motorised vehicles which fail to meet strict environmental standards from a 1.2 square mile area of central Edinburgh. Motorbikes and mopeds are exempt, as are blue badge holders. The LEZ will be introduced in May 2022, but a two-year grace period means enforcement will only begin in June 2024.

St John's Road in Corstorphine is regularly named as one of the worst polluted streets in Scotland

Tory transport spokesman Graham Hutchison said the council had failed to take on board feedback from the recent consultation which found opinion evenly split for and against the proposals.

He said measures to tackle traffic displacement had been put off until later and questioned whether the plan would reduce emissions.

"All parties are supportive of improving air quality, but the evidence isn’t there that this proposal is going to do that. .

“It’s foolhardy to approve the scheme before the work on traffic displacement has been done."

A map showing the area covered by the proposed LEZ

He said the risk was the city-centre restrictions just shifted the pollution problem elsewhere.

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“It’s very difficult to navigate from somewhere like Trinity to the Royal Infirmary, for example, without passing through the city centre.

“If someone for medical reasons can’t use a bus they’re going to have to drive around and that’s going to carry traffic down Leith Walk and around the London Road area.

"It seems as if the officers have put down a proposal and the administration is saying ‘Let’s just run with that’.

Councillor Kevin Lang says St John's Road should be covered by the LEZ
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“It’s not a good approach, its not delivering value for money for the citizens of Edinburgh, it’s not even achieving the goals it’s supposed to achieve.”

The council originally proposed a city-wide zone applying to lorries and buses only, as well as the city-centre zone which includes cars too.

Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said a city-wide scheme was still the right approach.

“The council is being too timid in its ambition and too slow in its implementation,” he said.

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“The proposals will mean that two of the most polluted roads in Scotland – St John’s Road and Queenferry – are not covered by the LEZ and that seems crazy.

“This is potentially our once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something big that addresses that.”

And he warned: “There’s a risk in going for a small, city-centre zone that polluting vehicles go around the zone to avoid it and in places like Morningside and Stockbridge the traffic displacement could be such that air quality gets even worse.

“The council is missing an opportunity and if this is the package that’s agreed then in years to come people will look back and wish they had gone further and been more ambitious.”

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The council says it is developing a network management strategy to tackle traffic displacement which could include measures such as reconfiguring junctions.

And it says while a city-wide LEZ would bring a benefit, analysis showed it was small “and, on balance, would not be justifiable”.

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