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Residents win fume test row caused by tram plan

A NEW series of air quality tests are to be carried out in Edinburgh where residents claim pollution is at dangerous levels because of traffic rerouted for the tram system.

Edinburgh City Council has conceded for the first time that it will provide extra monitoring after months of pleading from families concerned for their health.

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Campaigners claim that more than 130,000 people – about a quarter of the city’s population – are affected by the fumes.

Residents in the Moray Feu area, which includes a number of west end streets surrounding Moray Place, said they are particularly affected as the nature of the streets means that “urban canyons” are collecting and holding dangerous emissions.

The council said it has kept within Government guidelines in terms of monitoring streets but residents who have commissioned their own study say the unique formation of the streetscape, with high buildings and deep basement areas on either side is effectively catching emissions from cars and lorries that will be permanently rerouted through the west end to make way for the trams.

The problem comes after the city council said it would permanently reroute traffic from Shandwick Place through the west end, which it is claimed is essential to the trams business case.

Dr Ashley Lloyd, a senior university lecturer at the Institute of Science and Technology Innovation at Edinburgh University, has helped residents’ set up their own monitoring and research.

He said: “The council have been widely quoted as claiming that the tram would be good for everyone. This stands in contrast to their own reports that show pollution will get worse for over 100,000 households and we are concerned that other negative environmental impacts will occur that the council have failed to consider in their tram cost-benefit analysis.

“We need a closer look at this case and a chance to look at the real figures if we are to come up with a way of implementing this tram in a way that really does bring the promised benefits to Edinburgh.

“We have always argued that the council should be measuring what people are actually exposed to and, if they are now in agreement, then we should start to see the real problems of air pollution and its impact on the health of Edinburgh citizens being identified and tackled.”

Resident and retired Army Brigadier Allan Alstead said: “It was pointed out several times that, according to the council’s own consultant’s report, the re-routing of traffic due to the tram would create worse pollution, eventually affecting some 134,500 households.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council said: “As a result of questions being raised by local residents, the council is currently investigating the possibility of establishing monitoring locations at or near to the facades of selected properties.

“The facade of a building is the most appropriate point to measure as this can be taken to represent relevant exposure. This is not always feasible and Defra guidelines allow for measuring at alternative locations and local distance correction to be made to find the facade level.

“The key here is to be able to accurately determine exposure at locations where people spend long periods of time, such as in their homes. The council has always worked within Defra’s guidelines and will continue to do so.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh Trams said although emissions would increase for some as a result of traffic displacement, the tram system overall was better for the environment.

He said: “The positive environmental impact that tram systems have on urban landscapes is well documented and given the predicted growth of the capital over the next 30 years, Edinburgh’s air quality will benefit.”

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