Low Emission Zone update

Traffic modelling and the results of an engagement exercise for a low emission zone for Aberdeen city centre are to be presented to committee next June.

The members of the City Council’s city growth and resources committee yesterday agreed the timetable after a report explained changes in the project due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Council officers were going to pursue a Traffic Regulation Condition (TRC) for buses as Phase 1 of Aberdeen’s LEZ in 2020 however the pandemic has led to a revised schedule for the introduction of LEZs nationally.

At a meeting of the national LEZ Consistency Group in April 2020, it was agreed by Transport Scotland and the four LEZ cities that it would be inappropriate to impose TRCs at this time.

Transport Scotland also confirmed that discussions with the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland had made it clear that the Commissioner would have limited capacity to consider TRCs during 2020 in any case.

Furthermore, in May 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity announced a revision of the LEZ commitment in Scotland, recognising that COVID-19 will impact on councils’ ability to deliver LEZs by the end of 2020, and that relaxing the commitment would enable local authorities to consider the longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on transport and travel behaviour and any implications this may have on LEZ planning.

In August 2020, the Cabinet Secretary announced a revised commitment to introduce LEZs in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow between February 2022 and May 2022. Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, both now and in the future, this is not a finalised timetable for introduction but a commitment by all partners to work as quickly as they can to introduce LEZs at the earliest juncture.

Aberdeen City Council city growth and resources convener Councillor Douglas Lumsden said: “We recognise that the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the LEZ however it is good to see work continuing on the project.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the engagement exercise and the traffic modelling next year.”

The report to committee said an online engagement exercise has been undertaken asking the public’s opinion on different LEZ options, which have been put forward against the appraisal criteria and have predicted air quality benefits.

These options were 1A – Union Street area, 1B – Union Street area excluding Denburn Road and Guild Street, 2A – Union Street and George Street area, 2B – Union Street and George Street area excluding Denburn Road and Guild Street, 3A – City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) east area, 3B – CCMP east area excluding Denburn Road and Guild Street, 4A – CCMP Area, and 4B – CCMP area excluding Denburn Road and Guild Street.

The report said it was initially proposed to hold public and stakeholder consultation on options during spring 2020. However, as a number of consultees are city centre retailers and businesses, it was not considered appropriate to consult while the country was in full lockdown and consultation activities were paused.

Engagement subsequently took place during September and October 2020 and the results are currently being analysed, and the revised city centre traffic model was completed in May 2020 and testing of the options is now underway, including testing LEZ options in combination with the strategic transport elements of the CCMP. The modelling will address ongoing uncertainty around the longer-term impacts of the pandemic by considering a range of future economic and traffic scenarios.

LEZ development work will continue to take account of the effects and impacts of COVID-19 as the situation develops, including ongoing restrictions, increased demand for walking and cycling and high quality spaces for people, and the desire to ‘build back better’ as we recover from the pandemic.