Bold proposals aiming to significantly improve air quality and health benefits for people across Edinburgh were published today (Friday, May 10).

 

The City of Edinburgh Council has set out details for the introduction of Low Emission Zones (LEZs) which would see the city becoming the second in Scotland to implement such a scheme. Plans to carry out a public consultation and stakeholder engagement to further shape the proposals will be considered by the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee on Thursday, 16 May.

The outline plan details an approach to LEZ boundaries and the types of vehicles included, as well as phasing in arrangements. Its development is closely linked to a number of strategies aiming to enhance placemaking and connectivity in Edinburgh, including City Centre Transformation and the City Mobility Plan, of which the LEZ scheme is a key element.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “Tackling air pollution benefits everyone – residents, commuters and visitors – particularly the most vulnerable members of society. Like cities across the UK and globally, we are committed to improving air quality and realising the health benefits this will bring.

“Edinburgh is one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK and it’s clear that we need to take action to build resilience while ensuring a high quality of life for everyone who comes here. Our plans for an LEZ, as part of a broader package of measures to improve sustainability and connectivity across the city, will be central to achieving this.”

The LEZ project has been developed in association with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Transport Scotland and addresses the significant impact higher emission vehicles have on air pollution.

It is proposed that the LEZ would comprise of a city centre boundary for all vehicles and a city-wide boundary for selected vehicles. All polluting vehicles would be affected and entry to an LEZ would incur a penalty, though there will be exemptions in some circumstances.

While the implementation of Edinburgh’s LEZ scheme is proposed to start by the end of 2020, grace periods have been factored in to allow the owners of vehicles time to prepare, with an extended grace period for residents living in LEZ areas.

Within the city centre boundary, the grace period for buses, coaches and commercial vehicles would be until the end of 2021 and to the end of 2024 for cars. Buses, coaches and commercial vehicles will have until 2023 to comply with the city-wide boundary. Cars will not be affected by the city-wide boundary.

A poll commissioned by the British Lung Foundation and carried out by Censuswide asked 1,001 people across Scotland about LEZs. It showed that two thirds of people in Edinburgh (68%) and Lothian (65%) supported their introduction.

Joseph Carter, head of British Lung Foundation Scotland said: “Air pollution is bad for everyone’s health, but it’s especially dangerous for people living with lung disease and for children whose growing lungs can be permanently damaged by it.

“Edinburgh and Lothian 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 Low Emission Zone 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.”

In autumn 2018, the Council undertook wide-ranging public engagement on the prospectus Connecting our City, Transforming our Places, with more than 5,000 people and organisations contributing their views on a number of ideas for improving the city including the introduction of a city centre and city-wide LEZ.

When asked about the principle of a LEZ in Edinburgh, 75% of survey respondents agreed that restricting access to the most polluting vehicles to the city centre and wider city as a way to control and improve air quality.

The LEZ proposals, which will come before the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee on May 16, can be viewed on the Council website.

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