Preparations under way to introduce low emission zone in Edinburgh

Campaigners fear the low emission zone will impact small businesses in the city when restrictions come into force this summer.

Edinburgh is preparing to introduce a low emission zone this summer, meaning vehicles will need to meet strict emissions standards to enter the city centre or pay a fine.

The scheme imposes penalty charges on the most-polluting vehicles entering restricted areas in a bid to reduce air pollution.

Zones are also set to be introduced in Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh in June 2024 after being brought into force in Glasgow in June 2023.

Edinburgh’s air quality meets the legal minimum requirement set by the Scottish Government but falls foul of the level recommended by the World Health Organisation.

The Federation of Small Businesses said small businesses in the city will be most affected by the low emission zone.

Development manager Garry Clark said more support should be given to independent traders in the city centre.

He told STV News: “Small businesses need all the resources they can get.

“Small business owners are making value judgments; how much it’s going to cost them to upgrade vehicles, and balancing that against the cost of trading in Edinburgh.

“Glasgow trailblazed the way, we’re seeing a number of fines imposed. Glasgow City Council are certainly raising money. Could some of that be reinvested into supporting smaller businesses?

“We know we need to improve the environment and there is a global climate emergency. But what more can we do to ensure small businesses play their part? We need to ensure they get support.

“Let’s cut the small businesses some slack. We’d like to see a staggered introduction for small businesses considered, offer more generous allowances to help them upgrade or give them more time to comply with the low emission zone.”

Under the new restrictions, vehicles made before a certain time will not be permitted enter the zone, or drivers could face a fine beginning at £60.

The rules will include diesel vehicles registered before September 2015 and petrol vehicles registered before January 2006.

Last month, dozens of signs were put up warning locals of the 1.2 square mile zone which stretches across the city centre.

Pam Peters is a campaigner with community group Together Edinburgh and Lothians and said the new rules will hit locals in the pocket as living costs soar.

“We know these policies disproportionately affect people on low incomes and small businesses,” she said.

“Why would they want to make life harder for them just now? That doesn’t make sense to me.

“It’s hard enough finding a joiner, plumber or tradesman in the city.

“My concern is, what if they stop coming into the city centre if it’s too hard to do business here? Local residents will suffer.

“This is being imposed on us. The ordinary members of the public are concerned about potholes, roads being clear and having free room to travel.

“They’re not looking for more taxes, restrictions or surveillance.

“I’d like to see them halt the whole thing and have an open, honest conversation about the costs and benefits.”

But the council insists it is supporting small businesses in Edinburgh to help them comply with the new regulations.

Councillor Scott Arthur, transport and environment convener, said it’s “fantastic” that the government’s minimum air quality requirement has been reached in the capital, but there is “still a long way to go.”

He said: “Recently I met the Public Health team and NHS Lothian and they’re absolutely behind us and I know charities that work in this field, they’re absolutely behind us and if we were to stop this scheme, people would never forgive us I don’t think.

“If you’re someone older or with certain medical conditions, you won’t feel the benefits of that improving air quality as you’re so sensitive to it.

“I think we have been working with businesses to get the balance right. The important thing to remember is with us being one year behind Glasgow, we’ll be able to look at the impact on residents and businesses there and try and learn from that.”

Grants of up to £3,000 are available for eligible businesses to make vehicles compliant before the Low Emission Zone comes into force on June 1.

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