Fears businesses 'will suffer' as low emission zones come into force

Scheme designed to cut vehicle emissions will be legally enforced in Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen this week.

Businesses in three cities which are enforcing low emission zones say it will have a knock-on impact on the high street.

Glasgow became the first city in Scotland to enforce fines last year, while Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh will follow suit this week.

The scheme is designed to exclude older vehicles from entering specified areas in a bid to improve air quality.

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.

Blue badge holders are exempt, and taxi drivers have until next year to make sure their vehicles comply.

But businesses across the cities fear new rules will impact footfall.

Dundee butcher George Jarron says the introduction of LEZ is 'disappointing' for businesses

Dundee will be Scotland’s second city with a low emission zone, which will be introduced on Thursday May 30.

It’s estimated around 12% of Dundee’s daily traffic won’t comply with the new rules – equating to roughly 3,000 vehicles.

Butcher George Jarron said the LEZ is “setting things back” for the local economy after the pandemic.

He said: “I think this is a bit disappointing. Covid devastated the city centre and everybody closed.

“We’re still trying to get these customers back – it’s hard.

“We’re not the only business that’s suffered – I’ve got friends who are in business along the road.

“So many businesses have closed since. There’s not a lot to attract people to come back, shopping wise.

“It feels like the council aren’t helping businesses to get back in the city centre.”

Dundee City Council’s convener for climate, environment and biodiversity Heather Anderson said the city is “well prepared” for the new scheme.

She said rules were brought in after the tragic case of a London schoolgirl who died of a fatal asthma attack in 2013.

London schoolgirl Ella Kissi Debrah died aged nine following an asthma attack in 2013. Coroners ruled air pollution contributed to her death in 2020. (handout)

Ella Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to have air pollution recognised as a factor in her death following an inquest in 2020.

“We’ve improved air quality levels over that time just with the idea of introducing an LEZ in Dundee,” she added.

“We’re not interested in fining people, we’re trying to improve air quality in the city centre.

“We try to make it as easy as possible for people to comply. We’ve done everything to ensure it’s a contained area.

We’ve got car parks around the periphery of the LEZ. You can park and walk through the city centre.

“You don’t need to breach the rules.

“It’s about keeping people safe and healthy in the town.”

‘People are scared off by the changes’

Colin Cameron, owner of the Kirkgate pub

Aberdeen City Council says the boundary of the LEZ has been “deliberately” drawn to minimise impact on businesses and residents.

But local shops and pubs fear the new restrictions will discourage people from visiting the city centre.

Colin Cameron owns the Kirkgate pub in Upperkirkgate.

He said: “I’m sure it will have an impact. The bus gates have had an impact, the LEZ have had an impact, the casual visitor is not going to come in.

“I feel sorry for the hospitality and the retail trade because they’re not going to come in, we know that it has over the past year. We are going to feel the drop in trade.”

“People have been scared off by the changes. People are scared they’re going to be fined or won’t find somewhere to park.

“I don’t see how there can be a change or how they can turn this around at all.”

Aberdeen tour guide Calum Lockerbie's van is not compliant with new LEZ rules

It’s estimated around 14% of vehicles around the north east are not compliant with the new rules.

Calum Lockerbie is a tour guide based in Aboyne but regularly travels in and out of Aberdeen to collect his clients.

His van is no longer compliant, but says replacing it would be cripple his small business.

Calum said: “There’s nothing wrong with the one I have, it really does the job.

“I’m not in the position where I can pay more for the insurance. I’m going to have to take a hit – if I can’t collect people in Aberdeen that’s going to impact my business.”

‘A game-changer for pollution’

NHS Grampian public health consultant Phil Mackie

But many health experts and campaigners are welcoming the schemes.

NHS Grampian public health consultant Phil Mackie said the LEZ is a “game-changer” for towns and cities.

“The World Health Organisation is very clear that poor air quality is one of the largest contributors to premature deaths worldwide.

“Estimates in Scotland suggest more than 2,700 premature deaths every year.

“Not only do emissions have a risk to human health, we have it contributing to risks to human health in the future.”

Jane Corrigan is an operations manager for Landmark Pub Company, which runs four pubs across Edinburgh.

Two of the pubs are situated within the low emissions zone.

Jane Corrigan manages a pub chain in Edinburgh and fears LEZ will affect staff

She said the safety of her staff getting home from work is a concern.

She said: “We want to make sure everyone is taken care of and that they get to their door at the end of the night.

“If someone is getting picked up or dropped off, they might get nowhere near them at that time in the morning if the car is not allowed to be in that zone.

“It may restrict people wanting to work in that area, which is a problem from a staffing point of view.

“It will also take traffic away and customers away from the city centre.”

She added: “My view is if this clean air zone works, they’ll keep stretching the zone. The bigger it gets, the bigger the impact.”

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said LEZ will 'drive people away' from city centres

Scottish Licensed Trade Association managing director Colin Wilkinson said the LEZ will have a knock-on effect for local businesses in the Capital.

He pointed to ongoing road works and the introduction of controversial bus gates introduced in 2023.

“Anything that restricts access to city centres is not good for businesses,” he said.

“We really need to look at this again. We need to do this in a balanced way that doesn’t impact them.

“It’s like they are trying to drive people away from the city centre.”

Gareth Brown, Asthma & Lung UK said: “People with asthma and other lung conditions have been telling us they feel better about going into Glasgow.

“There’s a lot of excitement about the ones happening in Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

“These are public health measures. There are a number of options councils and the Scottish Government could be taking to improve air quality.”

The Scottish Government said that since 2019, it has provided over £13m through the Low Emission Zone Support Fund.

Over 4,000 non-compliant vehicles have been disposed of or retrofitted with cleaner technology with over 450 taxis being retrofitted with the help of grant funding since 2019.

The fund has enabled the purchase of over 2,000 bikes, e-bikes or cargo bikes for homes and businesses.

Transport secretary Fiona Hyslop said new rules 'important for people's health'

Transport secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It’s important to recognise the LEZ are the norm in 320 cities right across Europe.

“It’s just the city centre itself. That can improve quality of life and environment.

“They can improve quality of life and the environment for people in our cities to live, work shop and go out in.

“It’s important for health and particularly for those with pre-existing conditions, the children and the elderly.”

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