I have found new evidence that shows our local authority has failed to take Musselburgh's air pollution problem seriously.
I have had confirmation from the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency that East Lothian Council has the option of applying for a Traffic Regulation Condition to enforce a low emission zone to reduce the pollution harming public health.
This directly contradicts claims made by East Lothian Council's environment spokesman, Councillor Norman Hampshire, who said in July:
“We are trying to work with the bus companies to improve the quality of buses we use in the town, but we cannot force them to introduce low emissions buses. Mr Rose needs to write the Scottish Government to ask them to legislate against the use of old buses with high emissions.”
I have also discovered that East Lothian Council has failed to take part in a consultation on the Scottish Government's low emissions strategy, which looks at ways of reducing pollution in congested areas. The strategy confirms that "local authorities are able to establish low emissions zones in their areas".
While many other local authorities, transport, environment and health organisations responded to the consultation, East Lothian Council did not. The Scottish Government is now finalising the strategy with a view to publishing it by the end of this year.
Musselburgh High Street was declared an Air Quality Management Area in November 2013.
I'm grateful to the Government's central licensing office for confirming what I suspected - either East Lothian Council's environment spokesman deliberately misled us or he is out of his depth. With 20,000 vehicles a day using our High Street, including 500 buses, there is simply no excuse for the local authority not exploring the option of enforcing low emissions buses on routes through Musselburgh.
It also speaks volumes that East Lothian Council chose not to help shape the Scottish Government's approach to tackling air pollution. This should be a top priority for our local authority given the impact on public health in our biggest town.
The British Heart Foundation points out that air pollution increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, yet most of us don't know what our pollution levels are or how to find out. I will continue to press for action on this important issue in my community.
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