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Aberdeen’s LEZ has cost £1.5 million, all before enforcement started

Unpopular road changes across Aberdeen city centre, including bus gates and LEZ, has cost more than £2m.

Aberdeen's LEZ, which goes live tomorrow, has so far cost £1.5m.   
Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
Aberdeen's LEZ, which goes live tomorrow, has so far cost £1.5m. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

New figures show Aberdeen’s LEZ has cost the public purse £1.5 million for implementation before enforcement even started.

Drivers of high-polluting vehicles entering the zone will be slapped with a £60 fine if they enter the low emission zone covering most of the city centre.

It’s been on the cards since 2021 and was technically formally introduced on May 31, 2022. 

Luckily for many drivers, a two-year “grace period” followed — meaning no one was fined for entering the zone… until Saturday.

The boundary on Bon-Accord Street. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

And now, three years since the LEZ was agreed upon, the rollout in Aberdeen alone has cost an “eye-watering” £1.5 million so far.

But, according to Aberdeen City Council, the money has been spent on more than just the installation of automatic number plate recognition cameras and signage.

How much has Aberdeen’s LEZ cost and why?

Last year, we reported that £600,000 was being put towards setting up the clear air zone, with ANPR cameras and signs covering 36 entry points around the city centre.

The local authority estimated it would cost £547,900 to procure, install and set up the specialist cameras.

And it was thought the total cost of putting up the signs would be £52,500, but it was stressed at the time that plans were “still developing”.

There is even signage alerting drivers of the LEZ lying ahead like this one here on the Hardgate. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Now, the council has revealed that £1,495,086.78 has been spent so far on the clean air zone in Aberdeen.

While it has not been broken down by cost, Aberdeen City Council says the money has also been spent on feasibility, appraisal, modelling, and consultation — which did result in the zone being reduced in size in November 2021.

And, the Let’s Clear the Air campaign was launched in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Getabout to help drivers “navigate” the city centre ahead of the LEZ being enforced.

The Market Street boundary. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

As well as Aberdeen, LEZs are also being implemented in the cities of Dundee and Edinburgh. Glasgow’s clean air zone was enforced last June.

The four LEZs have been funded by Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s transport quango.

So, although it’s not directly coming from the council’s taxpayer-funded pockets, it is still being fronted by the taxpayer — just via the Scottish Government.

MSP blasts ‘astonishing amount’ spent on ‘draconian scheme’ 

Douglas Lumsden has slammed the “eye-watering” amount spent on the LEZ, claiming the sums should have been used to improve the city centre rather than restrict access to it.

The Scottish Conservative North East MSP said: “It comes as no surprise that a protest is planned for Saturday when £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money has been forked out on a draconian scheme that 90% of Aberdonians don’t want.

Douglas Lumsden MSP has slammed the LEZ ahead of it going live on Saturday. Image: Kenny Elrick / DC Thomson

“Lessons should have been learned from Glasgow’s shambolic LEZ rollout, at a time when cash-strapped councils clearly do not have the resources to cope with it.

“It’s therefore astonishing that this astronomical amount has already been splashed out before the LEZ even goes live and the ANPR cameras are operational.”

Mr Lumsden has called for the local authority to rethink the plans and be “upfront about the full costs of running the scheme” once it goes live.

Money ‘needlessly wasted’ on bus gates

And, Scottish Conservative candidate for Aberdeen South, John Wheeler, joined his colleague’s calls for the administration to go “back to the drawing board”, but instead slammed the bus gates.

John Wheeler, former Aberdeen councillor and candidate for Aberdeen South, has attacked the spending on bus gates. Image: Scottish Conservatives

New data, obtained via freedom of information act requests, also reveals that more than £652k has been spent on the unpopular city centre bus gates since 2022, which Mr Wheeler argues does not ease congestion.

He said: “So much money has been needlessly wasted on them due to the SNP-Lib Dem council’s shambolic handling of issues such as signage, which have repeatedly been altered due to countless mistakes.

“Aberdeen should be a welcoming and inclusive city but banning vehicles simply discourages people from coming and they are simply forced to go out of town.”

But partnership points out LEZ signed off in January 2022… before they came to power

However, a spokesman for Aberdeen City Council’s ruling partnership highlighted that Aberdeen’s LEZ was signed off when the Conservatives and Labour were leading the council.

Aberdeen City Council co-leaders Christian Allard (left) and Ian Yuill on central Union Street- which will close to buses later this month. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
Aberdeen City Council co-leaders Christian Allard and Ian Yuill on central Union Street- which is now closed to buses later this month. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

He said: “Mr Lumsden and Mr Wheeler have a cheek attacking us over this.

“The Conservatives, and their Labour partners, agreed the Aberdeen LEZ when they controlled the council before May 2022. Mr Lumsden and Mr Wheeler were both Conservative councillors at the time.

“The final LEZ submission to the Scottish Government was ‘signed off’ in January 2022 by the Conservative group leader on Aberdeen City Council.

“After the Liberal Democrats and SNP took control of the Council in May 2022, we checked whether we could delay the enforcement of the LEZ beyond May 2024.

“We were told that was not possible.”

‘It’s some brass neck from both of them…’

Council co-leader Christian Allard hit back at what he calls the “brass neck” from the two former Tory councillors.

The SNP councillor said: “Lumsden approved the LEZ back in 2020, and set low emission targets for partners. He committed £5 million to delivering the low emission zone within the heart of the city.

“He should make an apology now if he thinks they got it wrong back in 2020. We got what we got when we arrived in the administration, and we have to implement what has already been decided by law.”

The Holburn Street signage. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Mr Allard explained that the administration checked if they could amend or even delay the rollout of Aberdeen’s LEZ when they came into power in May 2022. However, officers told them it was too late.

Since then, they have been focused on implementing the LEZ and doing “all they could to help”, like granting taxi drivers another year’s reprieve, as well as the new £1 parking after 5pm deal in an attempt to entice people back into the city.

He also highlighted their work to support Our Union Street to encourage traders back onto the Granite Mile.

“You’ve got to stand up for what you deliver when you deliver it,” he laughed.

“I voted for it [the LEZ], so I’m not going to say it’s something we shouldn’t have done.

“But, it’s some brass neck from both of them to say something totally different than what they said a few years back.”

Transport Scotland says there is ‘no safe level of air pollution’

A Transport Scotland spokesman told the Press & Journal footfall in Glasgow city centre has “bounced back” to pre-Covid figures at weekends and evening footfall now higher than it was before the pandemic.

However, during the week figures point to slower growth — which he explains could be because of post-Covid work patterns and the cost of living crisis rather than the LEZ implementation.

LEZ will restrict the “most polluting vehicles”. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

He said: “The enforcement of Scotland’s Low Emission Zones across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow is a truly significant moment for public health. Our air quality is already good and is getting better in our cities, however, there is no safe level of air pollution.”

Read more about Aberdeen’s LEZ: