Glasgow plans congestion charge and trams in £1.5bn vision

CONGESTION charging, a tram network, tree-lined boulevards and even solar-powered swimming pools have been proposed as part of a radical vision for Scotland's largest city.

• A tram network could include areas such as Queen Street. Picture: TSPL

Plans that would turn Glasgow into one of the greenest cities in Europe were unveiled yesterday. A major report set out a raft of ambitious proposals to slash the city's carbon emissions by 30 per cent over the next ten years.

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The project would require an estimated 1.5 billion investment from the private sector.

City leaders believe the project could regenerate Glasgow – already known as the "dear green place" – creating thousands of jobs and attracting investment.

However, some of the ideas have already sparked opposition – particularly those that would penalise car use.

The proposals were drawn up by the University of Strathclyde, supported by a consortium including Glasgow City Council.

Called Sustainable Glasgow, the project also has the backing of the Scottish Government.

Recommendations include:

• A tram network to carry passengers and freight, primarily in pedestrianised areas, such as between Queen Street and Central stations;

• Wind turbines on up to ten brownfield sites;

• Hydro power generated from the city's canals and rivers;

• Biogas energy from the city's sewage and rubbish;

• Congestion charging, with reductions for people using electric vehicles;

• A network of urban woodland on vacant sites around the city.

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Energy minister Jim Mather yesterday praised the initiative, and said he hoped it could be "replicated in towns and cities across Scotland".

The proposals would help to meet ambitious targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels.

Glasgow city centre consumes the most energy of anywhere in Scotland, emitting about four million tonnes of every year.

Richard Bellingham, the lead author of the report, from Strathclyde University, acknowledged that some of the ideas were likely to spark opposition.

"They are radical ideas, but they are also important ones," he said. "We have to address how we are going to increase the number of people in the city, while decreasing its carbon emissions."

He said key to selling ideas such as congestion charging to the public was "giving good alternatives". He explained: "If they perceive public transport as being high-quality, safe and reasonably priced, they will be more open to the idea that we are wanting to reduce cars in the city centre."

Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell told The Scotsman the plans were "very ambitious". "That is the kind of city Glasgow is, and has become," he said. "We are an ambitious city."

Under the plans, 30 million would be spent on creating new woodland in the city.

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The report said: "Glasgow will become a literally greener city through the planting of trees to form leafy boulevards, and the creation of urban woodland. Its image would be transformed from a post-industrial city with significant problems to a city that is actively delivering a new, sustainable strategic vision for its future. This new image will attract new businesses and people."

Another 800m would be spent on renewables and energy.

A district heating system to replace oil and gas would cost an estimated 600m and a tram network up to 90m. The consortium envisages capital investment for the projects coming mainly from the private sector. Scottish and Southern Energy and ScottishPower are among the consortium partners.

The initiative has already attracted international recognition. Joel Scheraga, senior adviser for climate adaptation at the US Environmental Protection Agency, who attended yesterday's launch, said: "The Sustainable Glasgow Initiative is a model for cities around the world." The new report was also welcomed by environment groups.

Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, encouraged the rest of Scotland's cities to follow Glasgow's lead. Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, believed the public could be brought round, even to congestion charging and reduced car parking. "I think these things can produce such an improved quality of life in urban areas that, with positive engagement by the council, these should be vote-winners."

However, Graham Bell, spokesman for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, had concerns about some of the proposals, such as congestion charging.

"Anybody would welcome the dear green place becoming greener. What we might not welcome is it becoming dearer."

He added: "It is not so much whether the principle of 'polluter paying' is right or wrong, but the fact that if Glasgow did it on its own, it would disadvantage the city in comparison to others."

Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, added: "Congestion charging is a tax on those that can't use public transport, and that includes many of the self-employed. The plumber or builder can no more take his tools on the bus than the baker and printer can deliver their goods on the train."

Green highlights

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• A tram network, for mixed passenger and freight use, in pedestrian areas – such as between Queen Street and Central stations

• Charges for lorries and vans entering the city centre

• Council tax reductions for one-car families

• Fewer parking spaces in the city centre to dissuade people from driving

• Car clubs to encourage car sharing

• Congestion charging, with reductions for people using electric vehicles

• Lower cost car parking for people with electric vehicles

• Lower energy tariffs for people with lower energy consumption

• A huge new network of urban woodland on vacant sites around the city

• Wind turbines on ten brownfield sites in the city

• Loans for energy efficiency that are paid back via council tax

• A minimum standard of energy efficiency for homes

• Change the law to allow the energy use of homes and businesses to be made publicly available

• More efficient street lighting

• Phase out use of coal and oil for heating

• Change the law so that local authorities can act as energy companies

• Bigger cycle path network

• Public transport to be as cheap as travelling by car

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• Lower business rates for companies that adopt low carbon transport schemes – and penalties for those that don't

• Free licensing for electric taxis

• Electric car charging points in car parks

• Electric buses

• Sustainability champions in local communities, businesses and schools to spread the word

• Develop a "Sustainable Glasgow" brand

• Add education about Sustainable Glasgow into the local school curriculum

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