Glasgow City Council challenged to stand up for citizen health with LEZ decision

GLASGOW could push ahead with plans for a ‘congestion charge’ as the city struggles to get to grips with its air pollution crisis, in a move environmental groups say they would support. 

The idea – first floated by Glasgow City Council’s draft Low Emissions Zone strategy – could now be put out for consultation.

It follows a backlash from campaigners who accused politicians of failing to use LEZs to properly tackle emissions.

The council was slated for exempting the most pollution heavy vehicles – such as buses – from the early onset of the scheme, instead being phased out.

Some vehicles such as non compliant cars more than 12 years old would be banned immediately from the zones.

The LEZ plan will come under scrutiny tomorrow when a final report is put up for approval by the council tomorrow.

Campaigners who criticised the plans for failing to go far enough to deliver clean air as soon as possible have now written to councillors and officials demanding more be done.

But they say they would back an element creating a congestion charge, like the one introduced to London 15 years ago.

Since then, the English capital says it has had measurable success reducing emissions.

Nine health and environmental campaign groups and over 350 members of the public have signed an open letter calling on the Council to show greater ambition with their proposed LEZ.

Read the letter below.

Dear Glasgow City Administration Committee,,

LOW EMISSION ZONE

In advance of your consideration of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone at Committee, we, the undersigned, would like to make the following recommendations to help tackle Glasgow’s pollution crisis:

1) Road user charging We are supportive of road user charging, subject to it being part of an integrated, fair, green transport strategy, and would support a decision at the City Administration Committee to refer road user charging to go to the Environment Committee for a detailed assessment of options within a year.

2) Retain a LEZ compliance date of April 2021 The bringing forward of the compliance date from December 2022 to April 2021 at the Environment Committee meeting was a progressive step which should be retained. Given that Glasgow’s LEZ was officially announced in September 2017, there can be no justification for a December 2022 date for all vehicles to be compliant. This would be five years after the announcement, which itself came after 7 years of deliberation and 7 years after the lapse of the EU legal deadline for clean air. It would not reflect the urgency required to tackle the air pollution health crisis Even if this CAC meeting date is taken as the decision time for the vehicles to be included in the Zone, a three year notice period would bring us to June 2021.

3) Bus ambition SEPA modelling shows that even when 100% of buses in the city centre are Euro VI, there will remain illegal levels of pollution in some places. The Scottish Government’s target date for compliance with European air quality limits is 2020 (the legal deadline was 2010 so 2020 is already a decade late). The Scottish Government has confirmed a LEZ budget of £10.8m/year, 70% of which has been dedicated to bus improvement in Glasgow in the first year. This money would cover the full costs of 440 bus retrofits – meaning that 75% of all buses running through Glasgow city centre could be Euro VI or equivalent compliant by Spring 2019. Even more could be achieved if bus companies were to invest their own profits into fleet improvements. The Transport Bill may be bringing in tighter controls over buses which would give the Council greater leverage to make this happen. It is therefore incredibly disappointing that all buses will only be Euro VI compliant by 2022 as per the Traffic Regulation Condition application which was submitted last month. We would ask you to use the CAC meeting to clearly state a commitment to accelerate the timetable for the phase out of dirty buses, with a caveat about timely access to the Scottish Government funding, if you thought that necessary. This would complement the existing Traffic Regulation Condition application and make sure Glasgow is committed to moving as quickly as the funding now allows. Thanks again for your consideration of these points and we hope that you will commit to ambitious, effective action to tackle pollution.

Yours sincerely, Joseph Carter, Head of Devolved Nations, British Lung Foundation Dr Lizzie Reather, Chair, Cycling UK Scotland Roger Geffen, Policy Director, Cycling UK Sara Barry, Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Glasgow Dr Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland Ellie Harrison, Campaigner, Get Glasgow Moving Liz Murray, Head of Scottish Campaigns, Global Justice Now Iona Shepherd, Co-convenor, GoBike Jen Anderson, Chief Officer, Scottish Environment Link Tom Ballantine, Chair, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland Dr Sam Gardner, Acting Director, WWF Scotland

Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna said, “The people of Glasgow need an ambitious, effective Low Emission Zone to cut toxic air pollution as soon as possible, but once again the Council has gone backwards to a plan for a ‘No Ambition Zone’.

“In March, hundreds of people protested Glasgow City Council’s draft proposals and in response the plans were slightly improved as Councillors at the Environment Committee. But the current version seeks to undo the good work of that Committee, with restrictions on dirty cars, vans, taxis and lorries only kicking in at the end of December 2022, 12 years after the legal deadline for clean air.

“The plans will condemn people in city to have illegal levels of air pollution for years to come.

“Glasgow Councillors still have a chance to rescue this Low Emission Zone at Committee. The Councillors must show their intention to phase out dirty buses in the city centre more quickly than currently planned, and must stick with the proposal passed at the Environment Committee in March that the Zone come into force against all vehicles by April 2021.

“Glasgow residents have been forced put up with toxic air pollution for years so the Council cannot afford further dither and delay. ”

She added: “A legal deadline for clean air lapsed back in 2010. There should be no more kicking the issue into the long grass, we need decisive action from the Council which sees all the dirtiest vehicles out of the city centre as soon as feasibly possible.

“The prospect of our children, and the health of the city, depends on a bold, strong, Low Emission Zone which sets a strong standard for the rest of Scotland.”

The decisions taken will be watched closely by other areas to implement LEZs, including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: Submission Documents: Low Emission Zone – Report by City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction.

IMAGE CREDITS: Friends of the Earth Scotland

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

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