Low emissions transport key to cutting air pollution

Hybrid Bus

A new report from the City of Edinburgh Council shows that low-emission hybrid buses have played a key role in reducing air pollution in Leith.

Officials claim that increasing use of the buses on key routes in Leith has helped to reduce Nitrogen Oxide levels on many Leith streets where this pollutant has historically been a problem.

Nevertheless, poor air quality is said to lead to around 205 early deaths per year in Edinburgh alone, according to Public Health England.

And despite official attempts to talk up air quality improvements, the actual data shows that illegal levels of NOx were still recorded on Great Junction Street, Easter Road, Leith Walk, London Road, and Bernard Street.

Indeed there is a notable difference in tone between the main report which suggests that there may be scope to roll back Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA’s must be designated where dangerous levels of pollution are found), and the appendices to the report which bluntly state that all the existing AQMA’s “remain valid.”

The main report also reveals the impact that vehicles with large diesel engines have on local air quality. On London Road for example, buses make up just 8% of the total traffic volume but generate 56% of the dangerous NOx air pollution on the street.

On Bernard Street, it’s HGV’s which cause the majority of the air pollution. Although HGV’s account for just 5% of the traffic volume of the street, they’re responsible for generating 38% of the NOx air pollution problems there.

The main report acknowledges that extending the city centre Air Quality Management Area into the Southside will be necessary and it also concludes that an Air Quality Management Area on Salamander Street is likely to be set up later in the year once research work has been completed.

This year Salamander Street was among the first streets in Scotland to break air quality limits for particulate emissions, an issue Greener Leith looked at in detail in this earlier blog post.

On Salamander Street officials report: “Salamander Street AQMS did not meet the tighter Scottish Government PM10 annual objective of 18ug/m3. Currently modelling work is being undertaken by air quality consultants in order to define an AQMA boundary to deal with industrial, transport related and other particulate matter sources near the Salamander Street monitoring location.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling on the council to do more to tackle air pollution in the city. They propose establishing one or more Low Emissions Zones which would see the most heavily polluting vehicles, such as older HGV’s and buses, banned from some parts of the city.

Indeed, for streets where HGV’s are a significant problem, like Bernard Street, this might be the only way to decisively control pollution.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said, “Every day people in Edinburgh are forced to breathe in toxic gases and particles from traffic. Air pollution is worsening our health, with more than 200 people in Edinburgh dying from this invisible killer each year. The Government now says that Edinburgh will only achieve clean air standards by 2020. This means many more people suffering preventable deaths and health problems.”

She added: “We are seeing some improvements in certain areas where buses have upgraded their fleet to have lower emission exhausts. This demonstrates that that air pollution can be successfully tackled and that low emission public transport is part of the solution.”

“The areas of increasing pollution show that the Council needs a more holistic approach where emission standards are improved across the whole city. It should introduce a Low Emission Zone similar to the one in Copenhagen or Berlin, where the most polluting vehicles are banned from parts of the city. It also needs to revisit the idea of congestion charging and continue its investment in walking and cycling.”

Commenting on the report, which will be considered by councillors on the 26th of August, Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “Monitoring carried out allows us to see the invisible effects traffic has on our environment, but I am heartened by the general positive trend in air quality.”

“Work carried out by bus and freight companies is having an undoubted impact on emissions, and I am certain that our approach to integrated transport will continue to have an effect.

“However, it is clear that there is still a lot to be done to reduce harmful emissions in Edinburgh, creating a cleaner, greener city for everyone, and we are committed to continuing this work with partners.”

If you would like to see councillors bring air pollution under control before 2020, then you you might want to consider emailing councillors on the Transport, Infrastructure and Environment committee. They will be meeting this week to consider what action to take to tackle the problem.

Image Credit: Kim Traynor | CC | http://bit.ly/1pijWfl

UPDATE: This post was updated to take account of further detailed information on air quality posted to the council website.

Elvis Shakespeare gets an ace makeover thanks to Leith Late

Elvis Shakespeare Shutter

Every time a new shop gets a piece of Leith Late’s Shutter Project art, it seems like the best one yet.

Last weekend, it was the turn of popular local music and book store, Elvis Shakespeare to have their shutters transformed.

The artist who came up with the striking design was Erin McGrath. She is an artist and illustrator whose work often involves designing artwork for bands and gigs so Leith Late thought her style would be a perfect match for the Elvis Shakespeare, where more than the odd live music show has been hosted over the years.

Elvis Shakespeare Shutter 2

Reportedly, Owner Dave Griffin, pictured above with Erin, was so delighted with the design, that he even offered Erin a place to crash while she installed the artwork!

It’s a timeous intervention as Elvis Shakespeare celebrates its 10th birthday in July next year.

With some help from previous Shutter Project artist Fraser Gray, the work took three days to complete. Erin started on Friday the 8th of August and finished it on Sunday the 10th.

Morvern Cunningham of Leith Late said: “I’m delighted with the latest artwork in The Shutter Project. Erin’s design has completely transformed the shop and looks fantastic. Elvis Shakespeare is a real cultural institution in Leith, supporting local artists and regularly hosting instore gigs, so it’s great to give a little back and celebrate the shop for all the great things it does in the local community.”

Incidentally, Fraser Gray is also working on a mural for Greener Leith at the Children’s Orchard in Leith Links with Richie Cumming.

Although their work still isn’t complete down at the orchard we did manage to grab a photo of them last time they were down there.

Orchard mural

Keep your eyes peeled on Blue Tiger Tattoo as another Shutter Project artwork by Fraser Douglas is currently in progress there.

Elvis Shakespeare photo credit: Eoin Carey Photography

Leith still missing out on litter fines?

Rubbish Leith Walk

The number of litter fines issued to Leithers has fallen every year for five years, even though the area is among the dirtiest in the city.

In the last financial year to March 2014, the number of litter fines handed out by Environmental Wardens dropped by 19% compared to the previous year in the Leith and Leith Walk wards. Meanwhile, city-wide stats show that there has been a 17% year-on-year increase in the number of litter tickets issued.

Our regular readers will know that we’ve made a point of publishing performance data about the council’s environmental services in Leith, in a bid to persuade council service managers to adopt a more joined up approach towards management of litter.

Even though cleanliness standards have improved in Leith over the last twelve months, with both Leith and Leith Walk wards meeting minimum standards set-out by Keep Scotland Beautiful, the Leith and Leith Walk wards have still been consistently among the dirtiest areas in the city.

Despite this, these litter statistics suggest that city officials are still not deploying environmental wardens in the areas where they could make the most difference.

And it’s a similar story with dog fouling fines.

Last year, the Environmental Wardens managed to issue just 5 tickets for dog fouling in the Leith and Leith Walk wards combined. Indeed, in 12 months, just one dog fouling fine was issued in the Leith Walk ward, the lowest number in any ward of the city.

You’ll note from the chart above that the overall number of dog-fouling tickets issued city-wide also declined last year, which is odd, given that the council teamed up with the Evening News to run a high profile campaign where the paper claimed that “More than 1000 fines have been handed out recently,” adding “Council officials are standing by to take your calls and want to know precisely where and when repeat offenders are leaving their pets behind, so they can target them in a major new blitz.”

Judging by the actual number of dog poo tickets handed out by Environmental Wardens, clearly when the Evening News said “recently” they really meant “over the last four years,” and when the paper promised a “major new blitz” they didn’t know that the council would respond by actually cutting enforcement activity.

To add an extra frisson of irony, the paper launched their campaign last June with a case study from Pilrig Park, which is of course in the Leith Walk ward. That ward with just one fine in a year. Awkward.

Still it isn’t actually all bad news, unless you’re a small business in Leith with a habit of flouting waste disposal laws.

The number of tickets issued by Environmental Wardens for fly tipping has increased hugely in the last financial year – even in Leith. These tickets are often issued by the wardens if small businesses are caught out putting their waste in a place it isn’t supposed to be. In the 2012/2013 financial year, Greener Leith revealed that the city had seemingly stopped issuing these types of tickets.

Well in 2013/14, it would appear they made a comeback, with nearly 1000 issued in the city centre alone, and 80 tickets issued in the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership area.

To be fair to council managers we should point out that complaints received from residents in the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership area relating to dog-fouling, litter and fly-tipping have all reduced when compared the 2012/13 year with the 2013/14 year.

We’d be interested to hear what you think about the trends in these graphs. Do you think there should be more enforcement in Leith? Is there too much focus on fly-tipping and not enough done to tackle dog fouling? Or do you think the levels are about right?

About this data…

A great deal of emphasis is placed by the council on “partnership working” and community engagement in local decision making, and a key part of this is helping people to understand how services in their neighbourhood are working.

Yet sadly, even after Greener Leith volunteers have asked nicely for this data, we’ve had to use Freedom of Information legislation to access this information for three years in a row now.

How many more times will we have to use FOI to access this data before it’s published routinely by the council as part of its Open Data Strategy?

New recycling service rolls out to some Leithers

New recycling service sep2014 map

If you live near one of the squares on the map above then the chances are you’re going to be among the first 20,000 Edinburgh residents to be using a new recycling system come September the 1st.

But if, like many people in Leith, you use communal waste bins, then look away now. This post will only make you jealous.

Officials hope that the coming changes which will eventually roll out to 140,000 households in Edinburgh, will make it easier for folk to recycle, and therefore boost domestic recycling rates. If rates go up, then the amount the council has to pay in Landfill Tax goes down, which is a good thing.

As this graph shows, the proportion of city waste that is being recycled or composted is going up each year. Around 40% of domestic waste now does not go to landfill, but the city – like all Scottish Local Authorities – has a target of 70% to meet.

What’s changing?

The range of things you can recycle is increasing, whilst the size of your general waste bin is decreasing. The number of different containers you need to sort things into is also decreasing. This should make the whole process more straightforward.

Your green wheelie bin will now be used for paper, cardboard, cans, tins and plastics. Sorting out recycling should become more straightforwards as the new service allows you to recycle envelopes, aerosols, and probably most importantly, ALL types of plastic packaging.

Your blue box will be used to recycle glass, batteries and for the first time, small electrical appliances like kettles, hair-dryers or toasters.

There’s no change to the food waste recycling scheme, or the garden waste recycling scheme.

More details are available in this council leaflet.

If your household is affected by these changes then you should get an information pack with details of your new collection times through the letterbox. However, if you want to speak to a human being about the changes then there’s a Recycling Roadshow on Wednesday the 6th, at Leith Victoria Swim Centre, 9am-12pm.

 

Leith Links putting greens gone with no consultation

Leith Links 1887

Recently there’s been some consternation among Leithers when it became clear that Edinburgh Leisure and the City of Edinburgh Council had quietly decided between them to withdraw putting from Leith Links.

In a blog post on the Leith Links Community Council website last week, the Chair Jim Scanlon asked “Where have all the putting greens gone?” and noted that Edinburgh Leisure had removed any mention of the game from its website – suggesting that even at the historic “home of golf” there was little intention of bringing putting back to the park.

Jim said: “It may seem trivial but why remove it when they have to employ somebody to be there for the bowling and tennis so it can’t be down to cost savings? I suspect the main reason is they can’t be bothered.

“In good weather the putting has been well used by local office workers and residents so Edinburgh Leisure lets have it back please?

“We keep talking about making Leith Links a premier park but it’s still a poor relation to the city centre. Another example of you’ll have had your tea Leith,” he noted.

Greener Leith got in touch with Edinburgh Leisure to find out what was going on, and in an emailed statement an Edinburgh Leisure manager said that a counterpart at the council parks department had told Edinburgh Leisure as far back as April that: “as reported and approved by Council, maintenance on all greens not identified for bowling was being reduced in order to realise savings demanded by Council.”

According to Edinburgh Leisure, the council officer said that “discussions during the consultation process had not identified any future need or demand for retaining putting on the bowling greens.”

The Edinburgh Leisure manager added: “As regards Leith Links, the holes do appear to still be in situ but as the green is not being maintained as a putting green there are no cups in place and the grass currently looks to be in a poor state. The flags are still in the building, and the attendant on site did put them out on a couple of occasions, but with the grass being in such poor condition we felt it was better not to offer a substandard experience.”

Now the odd thing is, if you actually read the last council report on Bowling Greens, which councillors considered in January, its really not clear that councillors agreed to cut putting on Leith Links at all.

Firstly, the report presented “draft” proposals for the future of each site, and claimed a further report with final proposals would be forthcoming, but to date no further report has been considered by the Transport and Environment Committee.

The draft proposals for Leith Links were as follows: “Leith Links: Implement Leith Links Tennis and Petanque Project, which will leave three greens. A subsequent proposal has been received from the Scottish Volleyball Association to convert one of the remaining greens into a beach volleyball court. Victoria Park, Balgreen and Powderhall would also be considered for this use.”

We covered the proposals to convert one of the greens to a beach volleyball court on this blog at the time. Clearly there is no mention of withdrawing putting on Leith Links in the main body of the report.

Leith Links Bowling Greens

But the January report also contains some detail of consultation undertaken prior to the “draft proposals” in the appendices. They set out what locals did agree to. It says: “There is currently a proposal, Leith Links Tennis and Petanque Project Edinburgh which has been drawn up in conjunction with the Leith Links Steering Group (made up of representatives from Greener Leith, Local Councillors, representatives from local sporting groups and officers from Parks and Greenspace, North and Central Neighbourhood Teams).

“This project would involve reducing the bowling greens from four to two (retaining greens C&D) and offering in place a putting green (green B) and three courts and a petanque area (green A). This project has been approved in principal and is awaiting the results of a funding bid to Sportscotland.”

According to our records the Leith Links Steering Group has not been consulted since on any proposals to remove the putting from Leith Links either, whilst at the December meeting of the group the minutes record that “local expressed concern at losing the putting,” if one of the four bowling greens were to be converted into a beach volleyball court.

So there you have it. Councillors did not specifically agree to withdraw putting from Leith Links and when locals were consulted on it records show they did not want to lose the putting greens.

Why does it matter?

Well, as Jim says, the greens are popular in good weather. All the equipment is still there, even the holes, and the building is staffed during the summer, so for a start the cost savings must be fairly minimal in the wider scheme of things.

But also, the key to a successful park is having a broad diversity of things to do. Having an area where people can try putting, bowls, tennis and Petanque all in once place will help the park appeal to a broad range of users and increase the chances of people getting out and active in the park.

Perhaps most importantly, if Leith Links is to be marketed as the “home of golf,” and a statue erected to make more of this, surely it makes sense to give visitors a chance to pick up a putter and give it a shot? It’s hard to imagine that demand would go down after the John Rattray statue finds a home on the Links

Projects such as our Leith Links Children’s Orchard have already helped to cut the maintenance bill for the council, as it took a huge area of grass out of the regular park mowing cycle. If further maintenance cuts are necessary on Leith Links, council officers could consult with park users on which areas could be left to grow longer, rather than trying to push cuts through without public discussion.

We’re pretty sure that, if asked, most people would not agree to letting a putting green go, simply because when officials did ask, locals said no. So why is it happening anyway?