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  • Writer's picturePaul Rowllings

Neighbourhoods: Low Emission, Low Traffic and 20-Minute

This article provides some clarification on various transport initiatives by City of Edinburgh Council (CEC). Several members of the public have raised concerns with the Community Council about these initiatives, often based on misinformation found online. Rather than preparing a separate response for each person, this briefing will provide a basis for such responses.

Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

An LEZ (sometimes called a Clean Air Zone, CAZ) is an area in which the use of older or more polluting vehicles is limited or prohibited. CEC is introducing a LEZ, covering an area slightly larger than Edinburgh city centre to be fully active from 1 June 2024. It is currently in a testing phase. Other LEZs in Scotland are in Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow. Unlike the London ULEZ, there are no permits. Vehicles considered more polluting (roughly pre-2015 (Euro 6) for diesel cars and pre-2013 (Euro 4) for petrol cars), are not allowed inside the LEZ

perimeter, and owners/drivers are charged each time they drive into the zone. Central Edinburgh air is badly polluted, and councils are legally required to take action to reduce such pollution (mainly nitrogen oxides and particulates) which comes mostly from vehicle exhausts. The LEZ is an attempt to reduce this pollution.

More information:

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN)

An LTN is an attempt to reduce traffic passing through a predominantly residential area, especially traffic which is seen as using residential streets to avoid busier main routes. Vehicular access is maintained to all properties in an LTN, though journeys within the LTN may take slightly longer. Filters may be put in place which only allow some traffic, e.g. buses or emergency services, to pass. It is these physical filters which discourage through traffic. The aim of an LTN is to make residential areas safer and more comfortable to live, travel and spend time in. CEC is responding to Government policies to encourage Active Travel (i.e. walking and cycling) and to reduce private car use, to reduce pollution, reduce carbon emissions and address the obesity epidemic. CEC is introducing LTN trials in Leith and Corstorphine and may subsequently introduce them in other areas of the city.

20 Minute Neighbourhoods (20MN)

20 Minute Neighbourhoods is a planning initiative across the UK to promote towns and cities where everyone can access all of their daily needs within a 20 minute walk, including shops, post office, doctor, dentist, library and other council services, social venues, greenspaces and jobs. This is very much how towns and cities used to be organised, before the advent of out-of-town shopping centres and long commutes. With 20MNs, Local Development Plans prepared by the CEC encourage developers, businesses and service providers to set up local branches or small businesses to set up near to residential areas and in local centres

rather than on distant industrial estates. Stories that 20MNs will restrict peoples’ movements are entirely unfounded - no one’s ability to travel for shopping, services or work if they wish to do so will be affected. CEC is currently trialling 20MNs in Craigmillar/Niddrie, Gorgie/Dalry and Portobello, but will also introduce them to other parts of the city in due course, and with public consultation. More information:

Are all these initiatives linked?

The LEZ is aimed solely at reducing air pollution in the city centre. LTNs and 20MNs are separate initiatives brought into the Edinburgh 2030 Climate Strategy which aims to reduce carbon emissions and is the city’s response to the UN Paris Agreement, UK Low Carbon Transition Plan and the Scottish Government Climate Change Plan. CEC is therefore legally required to take action to (for instance) reduce private car use, increase Active Travel, insulate homes and other buildings, encourage businesses to be more energy efficient, reduce waste and create more low-carbon jobs. More information:

Credit: Nick Marshall, Northfield and Willowbrae Community Council

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