A “lifeline” soup kitchen that serves free meals to hundreds of people is under threat due to Glasgow’s new low emission zone.
Homeless Project Scotland, which is based under the Hielenman’s Umbrella in the city’s Argyle Street, said its fridge van used for transporting food is not compliant with the new rules.
Its appeal to the council for a time-limited exemption to allow time to raise funds for a new vehicle has been refused as it did not meet conditions for “exceptional circumstances”.
As a result, the charity is unable to collect or deliver food supplies in the city centre without facing penalties from June 1.
Now, the charity is “scrambling” to raise £15,000 for a suitable vehicle before the new rules come into force.
Co-founder Colin McInnes said he is “extremely worried and nervous” that the service will have to close.
He described the van as the ‘beating heart’ of the charity, which provides hot meals to around 300 people a week.
“If the heart stops, the beat stops and people go hungry,” he said.
“Glasgow City Council won’t give us a time-limited exemption because it’s not ‘exceptional circumstances’. If 300 people going hungry is not exceptional, then I don’t know what is.
“They’re basically snatching the food from vulnerable people’s mouths because without the van, there’s no food. And without food, people go hungry.
“If we close down, we close a lifeline down for people – and then Glasgow City Council have a bigger problem.”
He added: “I would appeal to Glasgow City Council again and ask them to find somewhere in their hearts to allow one to two month exemption to allow us to put something on the road that’s suitable.”
Volunteer driver David Holmes works with the charity a couple of days a week.
He picks food and items up from around 12 venues across the city centre each shift.
He estimates the van would cross the LEZ boundary between “six and ten times” every day.
“That’s inescapable – there’s no other way to operate,” he added.
He said losing use of the van would be a “really big blow” to the charity and the people it helps.
He said: “I think it would be very difficult to operate without the fridge van and maintain that level of service. It just wouldn’t be possible at all to carry out the pick-ups that we do.
“I would ask the council to be reasonable and pragmatic about this. I don’t think the charity are looking for an indefinite exemption, just a period of time so arrangements can be made. I don’t think that’s unreasonable to ask.”
The council replied to the group’s exemption request read: “Exemptions will only be applied in exceptional circumstances and where the organisation can clearly demonstrate that timely efforts are being made to comply with the LEZ requirements.
“Your application did not meet the above conditions and therefore a time-limited exemption cannot be granted in this instance.”
Homeless Project Scotland has set up a Just Giving page to raise funds towards a new van with a target of £15,000.
It stated: “The situation has become so urgent that we are now in need of a new fridge van that meets the low emission requirements.
“We know that times are tough for everyone right now but we are asking for your assistance in raising funds for this much-needed purchase.”
General rules state petrol vehicles registered from 2006 onwards and diesel engine vehicles registered after September 2015 will meet the required standards.
A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said: “Glasgow’s plan to phase in a city centre LEZ was announced in 2018 to address decades of harmful air pollution, and since then there has been extensive communications and engagement to raise awareness of the scheme, its timescale for introduction and the availability of funding to ease compliance.
“To maximise the effectiveness of Glasgow’s LEZ, it is essential that compliance rates are as high as possible. This means that exemptions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances and where it can be shown that timely efforts are being made to comply with LEZ requirements.
“While the vast majority – up to 90% – of vehicles currently entering the city centre will be unaffected, the LEZ standards will address the most polluting vehicles which are disproportionately creating the harmful concentrations of air pollution in the city centre.”