Council ‘low emission zones’ to boost air quality

St John's Road in Corstorphine is one of Edinburgh's three official air quality management areas. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
St John's Road in Corstorphine is one of Edinburgh's three official air quality management areas. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A BAN which would keep lorries, buses and coaches which fail to meet tough pollution standards out of parts of the Capital has moved a step closer.

Council chiefs are to order a full feasibility study on introducing “low emission zones” (LEZs) which could see all but the most eco-friendly heavy goods vehicles barred from stretches of key routes into Edinburgh and excluded from parts of the city centre.

The measures have been drawn up in a bid to improve air quality in some of the worst areas of the city, with the European Union set to start handing out fines to cities failing to meet air quality targets.

Introducing LEZs could mean some buses and goods vehicles facing a total ban from designated streets or be excluded at certain times of day. They could also be hit with a financial penalty for 
entering certain areas.

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Certain streets and areas in the city are unacceptable in terms of air quality. People are obviously concerned about pollution and from 2015 the European Union is going to introduce substantial fines if air quality targets are not achieved.

“We want to look at the options – where we might have the zones, how we would manage them, how they could be enforced. And we want to see what lessons we can learn from other cities which already have LEZs.”

Edinburgh currently has three official “air quality management areas” – the city 
centre; St John’s Road, Corstorphine; and Great Junction Street, Leith – designated 
because of high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide from vehicle exhausts. Two more are in the pipeline – the A8 at Ratho Station/Newbridge; and the Inverleith Row/Ferry Road junction.

The cost of appointing a consultant to carry a feasibility study is estimated at up to £15,000, but most of the money is expected to be recovered in Scottish Government grants for local air quality schemes.

One issue to be considered by the consultants will be the problem of displacement – lorries switching to other routes and moving the problem there.

Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said most drivers would support the introduction of LEZs.

He said: “Most car engines are very clean and meet all emission standards, while buses, lorries and vans are more variable. Anything that targets the worst polluters should be welcomed.”

Phil Flanders, Scotland director of the Road Haulage Association, said it seemed strange Edinburgh was looking at LEZs when last year it had introduced a voluntary Ecostars scheme, which offered guidance on best environmental practice to freight and passenger transport operators.

He said: “Sometimes it is better trying to do things by agreement rather than enforcement. We’re happy to work with the council to resolve issues and make life better for the people of Edinburgh.”