A congestion-busting Low Emission Zone could be set up in Perth city centre.
Council bosses have confirmed tests will be carried out to see if the Fair City – which is home to one of Scotland’s most polluted streets – is suitable for a radical clear-air initiative. Crieff High Street, the subject of a new air quality management plan, will also be assessed.
If approved, number plate recognition tech would be set up on the edge of the zone and high-polluting vehicles would be banned from entering. Any drivers caught with unauthorised motors would be fined up to £240 for repeat offenders.
However, councillors have already questioned whether the scheme would simply move the problem to surrounding areas.
The Scottish Government is consulting local authorities on a roll-out of such zones (LEZ) as part of a new transport act.
Councillors in Perth and Kinross got the chance to hear how the scheme could work locally during a discussion on officers’ response.
Council leader Murray Lyle revealed a screening exercise would be carried out to establish a need for one or two LEZs. “The screening exercise is due for submission by the end of June, and will be reviewed by SEPA and the Scottish Government,” he said.
Mr Lyle said “we may need to implement a Low Emission Zone in the future” but stressed that the consultation response was not about any specific plan for Perth or Crieff.
The council’s response proposes emergency and military vehicles should be exempt.
It states: “If Scotland is to make a transformative shift to zero or ultra-low emission city centres, measures must be put in place to allow members of the pubic to reduce the need for them to bring their vehicles into the city centre.”
Council officers suggest measures such as park and choose sites, eco-friendly public transport and distribution centres for deliveries.
Depute Chief Executive Jim Valentine said: “There is no easy fix to the problems of vehicle emissions, but an LEZ strategy gives local authorities another option.”
SNP councillor Henry Anderson said he was supportive of LEZs in general. “I have concerns for bus and coach operators,” he said. “In the rural areas, we get the worst vehicles which can be unreliable and putting out lots of emissions.
“My fear is that if we insist on low-emission hybrid buses in the city, what will happen is the rural areas will suffer.”
Councillor Angus Forbes, environment and infrastructure convener, questioned what would happen if certain buses were banned from the centre. “For example, if a busload of people came on a bus from Glasgow for a gig at Perth Concert Hall, would the bus need to stop outside the LEZ and people would have to make their own way into the city centre?”
He was told that some exemptions would be made.
Councillors agreed to receive a follow-up report before the end of the year.