Environmental campaigners have welcomed the City Centre Transformation Plan approved today (Thurs 12th September) by City of Edinburgh Council, but have said it shows the Council need to do more to tackle toxic air pollution. Friends of the Earth Scotland has previously criticised the Council’s proposed Low Emission Zone, and say the Transformation Plan will not do enough to improve air quality.

City of Edinburgh Council’s Transformation Plan was passed by the Transport and Environment Committee after support from a public consultation. It is designed to make Edinburgh a city of walking and cycling and includes measures such as pedestrianisation of city centre streets, the creation of cycle lanes, and improvements to the public transport network.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner, Gavin Thomson commented,

“Air pollution causes 2,500 premature deaths every year across Scotland, and a range of health problems. We urgently need to improve air quality in our cities, which means shifting to more sustainable modes of transport and restricting the most polluting vehicles. The Transformation Plan does the former, now the Council need to do the latter.

“The Council’s city centre plan has loads of great ideas, many of which are in place across European cities and they have been rightly supported by the public. These are tested, forward-thinking ideas which could transform the city. They could make our streets safer, enable easier movement and provide a boost to business.

“But, alongside this, the Council’s Low Emission Zone is completely ineffective. These two projects need to work alongside each other. The Low Emission Zone must be revised to cover the whole city and restrict the most polluting vehicles, including cars. The Council must seize this opportunity to make sure all our children breathe clean air, and bring down climate emissions from our transport system.

“As it stands the Low Emission Zone risks creating a two-tier city where shoppers and tourists in the inner Zone get clean air but residents in the rest of the city continues to be choked with toxic fumes from cars. That’s why hundreds of residents told Councillors to improve these lacklustre LEZ plans earlier this year.”

Earlier this year four Edinburgh streets were named among the most polluted in Scotland. St. John’s Road, Nicolson Street and Queensferry Road broke legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide pollution. Salamander Street and Queensferry Road surpassed Scottish safety standards for Particulate Matter.

Notes to Editors

1. ‘Edinburgh City Centre Transformation’ was passed today (12th Sept) at City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport and Environment Committee.The full Council meeting is expected to approve the plan on Thursday 19th September.

2. Edinburgh has 6 Pollution Zones where health standards on air pollution are regularly broken years after a deadline. http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20268/pollution/314/local_air_quality_management

3. Edinburgh streets break pollution legal limits (Jan 2019) https://foe.scot/press-release/scotlands-most-polluted-streets-2018/

4. For health links between air pollution and heart attacks, strokes, cancers, and stunted development in children and unborn babies: see Royal College of Physicians, “Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution” (2016) https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution

5. Friends of the Earth Scotland’s view on Edinburgh’s two-tier Low Emission Zone: https://foe.scot/press-release/lacklustre-pollution-plans-cars-choke-edinburgh-public/

6 Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.