Urgent campaign launched by Friends of the Earth Scotland as country’s first LEZ falls-short

FRIENDS of the Earth Scotland have hit out at Glasgow City Council after it published plans for the roll-out of the nation’s first low emissions zone.

Scotland’s largest city is the worst affected by filthy air pollution, and targeted for the first LEZ roll-out deliberately to help it clean up.

The environment group is now calling on people to support a petition condemning the council and urging them to do more.

And they warned what happens in Glasgow will set the trend for future roll-outs in other parts of the country, notably Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

FOE Scotland Air Pollution Campaigner Emilia Hanna, said: “The people of Glasgow were promised a Low Emission Zone, but these proposals will create a ‘No Ambition Zone’ that does almost nothing to speed up air quality improvements so desperately needed in the city.

“The proposals condemn Glasgow to illegal air for years to come and must be urgently improved.

“Councillors must recommend these proposals be significantly improved when they discuss them or they will have failed the people of Glasgow who suffer daily from the health impacts of air pollution.

“What Glasgow does also sets the benchmark for the LEZs to come in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh in 2020, so it is critical to set the bar high.

“A Low Emission Zone should keep polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places. This plan is even worse that initially envisaged, not only will the Zone fail to catch dirty vans and lorries but it will only apply to a tiny fraction of buses.”

She said issues surrounding the bus industry were of particular concern, particularly in exhaust fume choked Glasgow.

She said:  “A Low Emission Zone which has no signs to mark it, no new cameras to catch offenders and continues to allow almost every dirty vehicle into the city centre, is not a Low Emission Zone.”

“The bus industry and the dinosaurs at Government agency Transport Scotland have succeeding in making sure the Glasgow LEZ proposals will fail to achieve clean air by 2020, the Scottish Government’s target date for compliance with safety standards.

“The LEZ plans would require a mere 20% of buses to have the cleanest standards in the city centre by next year, yet Transport Scotland research shows that 15% of buses already were at this standard in 2017.

Email Glasgow Council’s Environmental Committee today to demand that the Plans be strengthened to stop the public health emergency of air pollution. The Committee meets on Tuesday 20th March.

“The plans are a gift to bus companies at the expense of the hundreds of people in Glasgow who are dying early every year and suffering ill health due to toxic fumes.

“The bitter irony is that the Scottish Government has already allocated more than £10m for developing LEZs and at least £10m in loans for companies to buy cleaner buses, which is enough to retrofit or replace every older bus in Glasgow by the end of 2018.”

In a report going before committee on Tuesday, officials state buses remain ‘vital’ to the people of the city:

  1. The intention of Phase 1 of the LEZ is to work with the bus industry to improve emission standards of buses. Bus services are vital to the lives of Glaswegians and it is recognised that the introduction of the LEZ needs to be proportionate and managed in such a way that ambition and practicality can be balanced. Engagement has taken place between Council officers, major bus operators, Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and SPT and dialogue is ongoing to outline the potential scope of the LEZ and gain an insight from bus operators on how the Scottish Government funding for retrofitting of the bus fleet will be used by them to deliver a compliant bus fleet.

The report also goes on to look at priority measures for buses – including a reduction in the number of buses running in the city – and how 120 traffic signals in the area could use GPS monitoring to allow late running vehicles to ‘catch up’ by being given priority at junctions over other vehicles.

And it claims to have had  “a reduction in traffic within the city centre of around 4% in 5 years, a growth in cycling of 86% since 2009 and an increase in walking of 13% in 8 years.”

Yet, while the LEZ would take effect on Hogmanay this year, it admits the timetable is not to have all buses in the fleet Euro VI complaint until 2022. It states this would require ‘Scottish Government support’.

Whether that means the roll out could be quickened if more cash was made available sooner is unclear.

The city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, councillor Anna Richardson, said: “While we continue to work with the bus industry to improve services – services which are vital to the lives of Glaswegians – it’s recognised that the introduction of a LEZ needs to be proportionate and managed in such a way that ambition and practicality can be balanced.

“That is why the initial phase of the LEZ will address local buses through Traffic Regulation Conditions set by the Traffic Commissioner. Buses will be expected to meet Euro VI emission standard by December 2022.”

She added: “Glasgow is forging a national path towards cleaner air – air that we will all benefit from. Poor air quality is a significant public health concern and a major social justice issue for Glasgow.

However Friends of the Earth Scotland said the plans in their current forms had ‘failed’ and said citizens of the city will be the ones to suffer.

Ahead of a meeting of councillors tomorrow, Hanna added: “The Council must be bolder and reform its proposals to require that 100% of buses travelling through Glasgow City Centre are Euro 6 compliant by the end of the year.

“These draft plans have also failed to publish a clear timescale for including vans, lorries, cars and taxis in the zone, but suggest that no action will be taken against the most polluting of these vehicles for up to four years, kicking the issue of tackling air pollution into the long grass when all the while people continue to die early and suffer ill health.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE? READ:

Glasgow City Council: Environment, Sustainability & Carbon Reduction City Policy Committee

FOES: What is a LEZ

IMAGE CREDITS: cc Flyfishinghut 

 

Shaun Milne is a Scottish based journalist with a particular interest in environmental issues, politics and travel.

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