Edinburgh's Low Emission Zone: Revised plan due in January but fears over possible need for new consultation
Revised plans for a Low Emission Zone in the centre of Edinburgh are to be published in January – and council chiefs are hoping the changes won't force them to rerun the consultation process.
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The SNP-Labour coalition’s plans to ban the most-polluting vehicles from a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre were rejected by the transport committee last month when opposition parties combined behind a Green amendment calling for changes to the boundaries of the zone and the proposed two-year grace period on enforcement, along with a greater emphasis on tackling greenhouse gases as well as NO2.
Officials are currently working on possible changes to the scheme and talks have been taking place between the administration and Green councillors.
An update given to the transport and environment committee on Thursday said: "Officers are carefully considering the actions required and are planning to bring a further report to committee in January. This will allow options to be examined while keeping to an appropriate timetable, given the importance and urgency of this proposal."
The vehicles caught by the ban would be 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.
The plan was to introduce the ban in May 2022 and begin enforcement in June 2024.
However, there are concerns that any significant changes to the scheme could trigger the need for a fresh consultation on the scheme, meaning an inevitable delay.
Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang asked officials at Thursday’s meeting of the committee: "If a scheme comes back that is in any way different from the scheme that went out to statutory consultation, do we have to go out for another statutory consultation?”
Operational services director Gareth Barwell said officials were having discussions with legal colleagues on the issue. He said: “There is a view that there are some changes to a scheme that, if they are minor in scale, wouldn’t warrant statutory consultation. But there would potentially be some changes, if they were major in scale, that would require statutory consultation.”
And he said the length of any consultation also had to be considered because that was not set out in the guidance.
Another official added that it was understood if proposals were being made “less onerous” there was no need to consult again, but if the scope of the scheme was increased then it did have to be readvertised.
After the meeting, Councillor Lang said he thought council chiefs faced a dilemma. "Either they come back with a scheme that is almost identical to the one that was rejected or they bring forward a scheme that will have to go through another round of consultation that will delay things significantly and probably until after the election. I don’t think they want to go through more consultation, partly because of the time and effort that would involve, but to do that it will have to be the most minor of changes.”
Lesley Macinnes told the Evening News: "There is work going ahead and we are confident we will bring back something really useful that meets the terms of the amendment and that will deliver on what we have promised the people of Edinburgh."