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19 July 2019, 07:22
Environmental campaigners have criticised Edinburgh City Council's plans to create low emission zones in the city as "lacklustre".
Friends of the Earth Scotland claims the proposals will do little to tackle air pollution and address the public health issues associated with it.
The group argues that, under the current plans, there will be no restrictions on cars in the Scottish capital in the next five years and says the local authority's draft plan risks becoming a wasted opportunity.
The council, whose public consultation on the issue closes on Sunday, said it has had a "fantastic" response to the plans.
Edinburgh City Council's draft low emission zone proposals involve a two-tier approach to address pollution levels.
One zone covering the city centre will restrict buses and HGVs from the end of 2021, with some cars restricted from the end of 2024.
A larger zone, covering the whole city, will be in place from the end of 2023 and will apply to buses, coaches, and HGVs.
Friends of the Earth Scotland is urging members of the public to have their say in the consultation and demand the council strengthens the plans.
The charity's air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson said: "The two-tier plans could mean tourists and shoppers will be breathing cleaner air in the city centre while people in residential areas could experience more traffic and air pollution as vehicles avoid the tiny city centre zone.
"Everyone in Edinburgh has a right to breathe safe air now, yet these plans will only begin to clear the air in one part of the city. Seemingly, the council decided that some people in Edinburgh are more worthy of protection from air pollution than others.
"This lacklustre zone has been designed to achieve the bare legal minimum on diesel pollution, an objective which should have been met back in 2010. The council has opted for the slowest possible lead-in times, meaning that it will be six years before any restrictions are applied to cars.
"It looks like they have prioritised not upsetting car owners above improving tackling dirty air to the benefit of all Edinburgh's people."
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener at the council, said: "Our low emission zone proposals have been developed following a great deal of analysis and modelling in close partnership with Sepa and Transport Scotland and are crucial to addressing poor air quality in Edinburgh and the significant risk it poses to human health.
"We've already had a fantastic, positive response to our consultation on these proposals.
"Plans for a city centre boundary aim to tackle the worst concentrations of air pollution in a densely populated area with the highest incidence of visitors and commuters while, on a wider scale, the city wide boundary will tackle the impact of vehicles that tend to make multiple trips and are responsible for the highest levels of pollution - buses and commercial vehicles make up two thirds of harmful emissions.
"Proposed grace periods will allow drivers to adapt to vital changes."