Still time to have your say on Low Emission Zone plans

More than 4000 people have told us what they think of proposals to introduce a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Edinburgh, with less than two weeks left to take part in the consultation.

We’re seeking people’s views on proposals for an LEZ in Edinburgh’s city centre, which would require all motor vehicles, other than mopeds and motorcycles (and exempted vehicles), to meet minimum emissions standards to enter the zone freely. We intend to introduce the LEZ by spring 2022, with a two-year grace period before enforcement begins, to help people adjust to the changes.

People have until 20 September to take part in the consultation asking about travel habits and for responses to the scheme, including the city centre boundary, the two-year grace period and exemptions. As of Thursday (9 September), 4025 people had already responded.

To help you have your say on the proposals, we’ve put together some key facts about the LEZ.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said:

It’s great that so many people have already taken the time to share their views on our proposals. This is a change that could affect anyone coming into the city centre, as well as all those that live here, so I would encourage as many people as possible to take part before the consultation closes.

It’s really important that people are able to make informed responses to the consultation, which is why we’ve gathered together some key facts about the scheme, and we hope these will dispel some of the myths about how it would operate.

Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said:

People have already told us how important clean air is to them, and our proposals aim to improve air quality while also supporting all those who live and work here to adjust to the changes.

By reducing the most polluting vehicles in the city, alongside other projects to reduce congestion and facilitate travel by foot, bike or wheel, we could create a safer, cleaner and healthier city.

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland said:

Low Emission Zones are a vital step towards improving Scotland’s air quality and people's lung health. Air pollution causes as many as 2000 premature deaths in Scotland every year so it is crucial that we take steps to reduce the levels we are exposed to, especially in our busy cities. We encourage everyone to take a moment and have their say to help ensure the Edinburgh LEZ plan is robust and will help to create a world where everyone can breathe clean air with healthy lungs.

Feedback to the consultation will help inform a finalised LEZ plan, to be brought back to the Transport and Environment Committee in the autumn, before the statutory process for introducing the scheme begins.

In 2019 we carried out a consultation on initial proposals for LEZs in Edinburgh, with responses showing that cleaner air is important to everyone.

LEZ: Key facts

Why are we introducing an LEZ?

  • We want to reduce air pollution, for which road traffic is the main source. By limiting the most polluting vehicles in the LEZ we want to create cleaner air and improve people’s health in this densely populated part of the city.
  • Introducing the LEZ will significantly improve air quality, reducing traffic related (NO2 - nitrogen dioxide) emissions in the city centre by 55% - equivalent to 25-30 tonnes per year, when compared to 2019 levels.

Will this negatively impact those who need to drive in the city?

  • We want to make sure that those who need to drive into the city still can, so blue badge holders and emergency vehicles will be amongst those exempt from the restrictions.
  • Only the most polluting vehicles will be affected – we expect the majority of drivers not to be affected by the changes.
  • By the time enforcement begins in 2024 only diesel cars less than nine years old and petrol cars less than 18 years old will be able to drive in the zone.

Why are we proposing a boundary that only covers the city centre and not the whole city?

  • An evidence-led approach was taken when appraising options for an LEZ, adhering to the National Low Emission Framework and based on detailed traffic and air quality modelling and data. Each option was assessed against a series of principles and objectives including the reduction of harmful NO2 and greenhouse gas emissions and minimising the displacement of traffic as a result of the LEZ.
  • This work suggested a citywide boundary would have a limited impact, with commercial fleet already improving in emissions standards. In 2020, Edinburgh traffic surveys showed Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) were already 76-95% compliant, while Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs), or vans, had increased in compliance to 48% from 7% in 2016.
  • Over 60% of bus and coach fleet here (excluding Lothian Buses) was compliant in February 2020 and Lothian Buses are already on the road to reaching full compliance with the LEZ requirements by the end of 2021.
  • It is anticipated that the effects of vehicles complying with a city centre boundary will filter out to the wider city, with all buses and taxis becoming compliant with LEZ rules covering the whole city. According to modelling by SEPA, for areas that are not in the LEZ, it is predicted that harmful Nitrogen Oxides emissions from traffic sources will decline by 15% when compared to 2019 levels.

Will an LEZ generate money for the Council but disproportionately affect low income households? 

  • LEZs improve public health and help to save money, supporting the NHS to reduce health inequalities. By allowing a two-year grace period we want to give people time to prepare for the changes before 2024.
  • There’s also funding available to help people prepare for the LEZ, with up to £3000 in grants for households on certain benefits to scrap polluting vehicles and invest in more sustainable transport. Small businesses can also benefit from up to £2,500 from the Energy Saving Trust.
  • Scotland’s LEZs will issue fines to the most polluting vehicles only and are not designed to generate income. The Scottish LEZs are not designed in the same way as the Clean Air Zones in other parts of the UK which essentially set a fee for entering in a non-compliant vehicle. The Edinburgh LEZ will issue fines for non-compliance set at rates which will discourage repeat contraventions.

Is this a Council strategy or something encouraged by the Scottish Government?

  • We have been working to introduce an LEZ in Edinburgh since 2018 in line with the Scottish Government’s commitment to implement LEZs in Scotland’s four largest cities – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee – to tackle air pollution and protect public health.
  • Our own City Mobility Plan – Edinburgh’s ten-year-transport strategy – commits to developing an LEZ alongside several other measures to tackle congestion, support cleaner air and support the move towards low emission transport. These include the Workplace Parking Levy (subject to consultation), the completion of the tram line to Newhaven and expansion of the active travel network.

Are you planning to increase electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help people comply with the LEZ?

  • Although you don’t have to have an electric vehicle to drive in the LEZ (newer petrol and diesel vehicles will still be allowed), the Council is working to develop electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the city to help facilitate these types of vehicles.
  • We’ve been awarded £2.2m of funding from Transport Scotland through the Switched-On Towns and Cities Fund for installing on street chargers. A total of 66 of these chargers will be put in across the city as part of the first phase of implementation. This is expected to be completed by 31 March 2022.
  • There are already publicly accessible electric vehicle chargers located around the city. Their locations can be found on the Charge Place Scotland website.

Take part in the LEZ consultation, which runs until 20 September, on the Council website.

Published: September 9th 2021