Glasgow city council has approved plans for Scotland’s first ‘Low Emission Zone’, which will come into effect in parts of the city from the end of this year (31 December).
The city’s LEZ will have an initial focus on improving the emissions from buses operating in and out of the designated area, with a phased implementation over four years. This will then be extended out to all vehicle types from 2022, it was confirmed yesterday.
Plans for the Low Emission Zone were formally approved by councillors at a meeting of the council’s City Administration Committee yesterday (14 June).
Despite being Scotland’s first targeted low emission zone, environmental campaigners have criticised the city council for failing to include cars, taxis, vans and lorries within the plans sooner, nicknaming the scheme a ‘no ambition zone’.
Under the Glasgow plans, all bus services operating within the low emission zone – which covers largely the same area as an existing city centre Air Quality Management Area will be required to meet at least the Euro VI emission standard by 2022.
Funding is expected to be secured through central government for the retrofit of many of the existing buses, in order to comply with the requirements.
Currently between 10% and 12% of the city’s buses are thought to meet the standard, Glasgow city council claims, with compliance expected to reach 20% by December 2018, moving gradually towards 100% by 2022.
The timescales set out by the council are subject to the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland agreeing to impose a Traffic Regulation Condition (TRC) following a regulatory impact assessment. The council submitted an application in April 2018 to the Commissioner to impose a TRC controlling emissions from buses (see airqualitynews.com story). It is anticipated this consideration process will take at least six months from submission.
Commenting on the plans, Councillor Anna Richardson, Glasgow’s convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, said: “Improving the quality of the air we breathe is a key priority for the city and so I’m proud to stand behind this progressive policy that will see Glasgow introduce Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone by the end of the year.
“Partnership working has resulted in substantial improvements to air quality however it remains a public health concern.
“The LEZ will make significant reductions to air pollution in the city centre and when fully implemented, will cover all vehicles by December 2022. This will ensure we achieve the improvements in air quality our city deserves.”
Further work is anticipated to be required to extend the LEZ out to cover the entire vehicle fleet, and the council has established an LEZ Delivery Forum to lead discussion with stakeholders on the potential barriers to overcome in implementing the next phase of the initiative.
Councillor Richardson added: “We need to work together to make the LEZ a success. There has been engagement with the bus industry to prepare for the first phase of the new zone and now we will begin full consultation with residents, businesses and stakeholders.
“I know from the many conversations I’ve had, that there is widespread support for the LEZ. It’s a vital step to ensure our city centre is a welcoming, healthy and pleasant place to be.
“We’ll ensure a robust but manageable timetable for implementation that will balance the city’s needs whilst improving air quality.”
Glasgow is the first of four Scottish cities – including also Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh – to be required to implement a Low Emission Zone before the end of the decade.
Friends of the Earth Scotland, which has been among the fiercest critics of the council’s proposals, has expressed disappointment that the city authority did not adopt a more ‘ambitious’ proposal for the LEZ – including the potential adoption of a congestion charge within the city.
Speaking yesterday, Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for the group, said: “Glasgow was named in a UK Supreme Court ruling on illegal air pollution back in 2015, and the Court ordered urgent and immediate action to tackle pollution.
“Low Emission Zones have been found to be the single most effective measure in tackle toxic air quickly. But today the City Council today has chosen to kick action unnecessarily far down the road. The next World Cup in 2022 will be finished before this Zone even comes into full effect.”
However, John Bynorth, policy and communications officer at the charity Environmental Protection Scotland (EPS), has welcomed the announcement that the zone will be expanded from 2022. He said: “We are delighted Glasgow’s LEZ plans have been passed by councillors so officials can now start to get the message out to motorists that they will no longer be able to bring the worst polluting vehicles into the city centre after the end of 2022. The city will have far cleaner air with noticeable health benefits for its people and workers once the LEZ fully comes into force.”