Motorists have been warned they have five years to scrap out of date cars to avoid facing “substantial” fines to drive in the city centre under draft proposals which have been labelled “half-hearted” by campaigners – while industry leaders have warned bus services could be reduced or removed as a result.
The city council has published its draft proposals to roll-out a two-tier Low Emission Zone (LEZ) by the end of 2020 – which will be subject of a public consultation. Motorists will receive time to prepare for the overhaul – with car drivers given until 2024 to clean up their vehicles.
Cars, buses and lorries that fail to meet pollution standards will be banned from the city centre. But a separate zone for the wider city will see cars exempt from the rules, meaning that pollution-emitting vehicles will still be able to sit in queues at the notorious St John’s Road junction and other hotspots across the wider Capital.
The LEZ for the city centre does not include Queen Street, Haymarket and Tollcross. Buses, coaches and commercial vehicles will have until the end of 2021 to meet the city centre standards, while cars will have until the end of 2024 – and the car grace period could be extended to 2025.
If approved, the citywide LEZ would require buses, coaches and commercial vehicles to meet the pollution standards by the end of 2023 and cars would be excluded.
Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “It’s absolutely clear that there’s an appetite for change around this. People recognise the issue. This is an ambitious low emission zone – there’s no question about that.
“We want to make sure that the way in which we do it doesn’t negatively impact on those businesses. We have to recognise what are the key sources of the problems. We are hitting those categories that makes the biggest difference fastest.”
For petrol engines, vehicles will have to meet Euro 4 standards – required for vehicles sold after January 2006. Diesel cars will have to meet Euro 6 standards – required for diesel cars sold after September 2015. Heavy diesel vehicles will need to meet Euro 6 standards – generally those registered with the DVLA after 2014.
No details of the fines for drivers who break the rules have been revealed but there will be “different levels of penalty charge depending on, for example, the class of vehicle or whether there are repeated contraventions”. Cllr Macinnes confirmed the penalties would be “substantial enough to change behaviour”.
The coach and bus industry has warned the proposals “may result in unintended consequences” for public transport networks.
Paul White, deputy director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK – Scotland, said: “Edinburgh intends to targets the bus sector first despite acknowledging that cars and LGVs are the largest NOx polluters. CPT would urge Edinburgh Council to remember that bus is an enabler of better air quality.
“This could have consequences for bus users across Lothian, many of whom rely on bus for access to work, health and education, or for accessible travel and social inclusion.
Environmental campaigners have warned that the draft plans as they stand would displace air pollution and “fails to protect the health of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner, Gavin Thomson said: “These plans from City of Edinburgh Council could have been a great step forward for air quality in the city, and the case for these improvements is clear.
“It is shocking that no restrictions will be applied to cars in the next five years, no matter how polluting these vehicles may be. Many residents in Edinburgh will be surprised that the council is creating a zone to tackle air pollution but that it doesn’t actually apply to cars.”
He added: “These two-tier plans mean tourists and shoppers will be breathing clean air in the city centre but, further out, residential areas will experience higher traffic and air pollution, as vehicles drive round the zone. These half-hearted plans fail to tackle persistent pollution hotspots in the city.”
Research from the British Lung Foundation found that 68 per cent of Edinburgh residents support the LEZ concept of the LEZ.
Joseph Carter, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “Edinburgh residents clearly have deep concerns about the public health crisis caused by air pollution. These figures show that people are willing to support bold action against the most polluting vehicles.
“A citywide LEZ is essential to deliver meaningful reductions in air pollution, giving everyone who lives in or visits Edinburgh the chance to enjoy the health benefits of cleaner air.”
David Bol , Local Democracy Reporting Service
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