Aberdeen’s planned low emission zone “lacks ambition” and should cover more of the city, say the Scottish Greens and Friends of the Earth Scotland.
This year, Aberdeen City Council announced its initial plans for the city’s first low emission zone (LEZ).
Designed to reduce air pollution and encourage the use of low-emission transport, the first map of Aberdeen’s proposed LEZ covered much of the city centre.
But last week the local authority revealed proposals for a revised, smaller LEZ which it drafted after receiving feedback from the public.
The council’s first plans included the East North Street, Commerce Street and Wapping Street areas.
But on the new map, the boundaries of the LEZ have been scaled back in these areas.
What are the concerns from the Scottish Greens and Friends of the Earth Scotland?
Many have voiced fears that Aberdeen’s planned LEZ will have a negative impact on city centre businesses, those travelling around the city, and those with vehicles which will be banned.
One posted on social media: “Unbelievable! I don’t think they could ruin Aberdeen any more if they tried!”
Another said: “Aberdeen City is empty as it is with high parking charges, this will be the final nail in the coffin. Rest in peace Aberdeen city centre.”
However, others are worried that the LEZ plans don’t go far enough.
The Scottish Greens and Friends of the Earth Scotland (FOTES) have pointed out that the LEZ doesn’t entirely cover many of the city’s worst streets for air pollution.
They have also argued that a smaller LEZ than initially planned will mean “we’ll continue to breathe in toxic air in the city centre”.
‘Lukewarm half measures that please nobody’
North-east Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman said: “It’s disappointing to see that the most polluted areas not covered in Aberdeen’s LEZ, and the lack of infrastructure to support this proposal.
“We are living through a climate emergency but when you look at this proposal you would never know it.
“With the eyes of the world on Scotland during COP26, you would hope councils such as Aberdeen, and Dundee, would want to show some leadership.
“Sadly, we instead see lukewarm half measures that please nobody.”
And Guy Ingerson, vice co-convener of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Greens, added: “The proposed LEZ by Aberdeen City Council lacks ambition, is incoherent and unfit for the purpose it is intended.
“LEZs are one tool in improving air quality, which is important for human health, and should be used alongside other measures such as more cycling infrastructure, pedestrianisation, and more affordable buses.
He added: “It strikes me that this has become a greenwashing exercise instead of the public health and environmental measure that is needed.”
‘Aberdeen City Council is watering down even this modest measure’
“Anyone who lives or works in Aberdeen is being exposed to toxic air pollution, which can cause or exacerbate serious health conditions,” said Gavin Thomson, transport campaigner at FOTES.
He continued: “The announcement that Aberdeen’s LEZ, which is intended to reduce air pollution in the city, will be shrunk from the intended area means we’ll continue to breathe in toxic air in the city centre.”
In 2017, the Scottish Government committed to the introduction of LEZs in Scotland’s four biggest cities, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee by 2020.
But because of the pandemic, this date was pushed back.
Aberdeen’s LEZ is planned to be introduced by May next year, however there will be a two year’s grace period before the introduction of enforcement.
Gavin continued: “While COP26 is taking place in Glasgow, it’s very disappointing for the council to be announcing a smaller version of an already-delayed clean air zone.
“World leaders are trying to agree on ambitious measures to reduce emissions and avoid climate catastrophe, while Aberdeen City Council is watering down even this modest measure.
“Councils like Aberdeen need to be taking bigger steps to reduce our emissions, move to more sustainable transport and protect public health.”
What does Aberdeen City Council say?
Councillor Sandra Macdonald, transport spokeswoman for the city council, said: “Aberdeen City Council is determined to deliver the most effective low emission zone we can, in line with the directions we are given by the Scottish Government.
“To do that, our officers have engaged directly with city centre residents, local businesses and bus companies, and brought forward these proposals for formal consideration.
“I would encourage Friends of the Earth to make a written response, before the finalised submission goes forward to be signed off by Scottish Ministers.
“The LEZ is only one of the things the council is doing. The AWPR has already brought benefits to the city by diverting urban traffic.
“Current City Centre Masterplan interventions will create more space for people, supported by active travel and public transport priorities, transforming the heart of our city over the next few years, delivering a healthier, reinvented city centre for all and the course we intend to follow in the years to come.”
Time is running out to have your say
Anyone with an interest in the LEZ and its boundaries has been invited to tell the council their thoughts.
Formal objections for the proposed boundaries and plans finish on November 28, and must be made in writing, stating the grounds of the objection.
You can email them to email@example.com.
Or you can send them by letter to Transport Strategy and Programmes, Aberdeen City Council, Business Hub 4, Ground Floor North, Marischal College, Broad Street, Aberdeen AB10 1AB.