UN to scrutinise Edinburgh tram complaint

Ashley Lloyd in Randolph Crescent A local scientist shows his pollution monitoring equipment in Randolph Crescent

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A United Nations committee is to scrutinise Edinburgh City Council's handling of the capital's controversial tram project.

A hearing will take place in Switzerland on Thursday, BBC Scotland has learned.

The case has been brought by campaigners who believe the tram scheme has resulted in a big increase in pollution levels in residential areas.

It will be heard in Geneva by the Aarhus Compliance Committee.

The construction of the capital's new tram line has meant the diversion of thousands of vehicles every day.

Rather than travelling through commercial areas, much of the traffic now has to pass along residential streets in central Edinburgh.

The campaigners argue increased pollution levels and noise will have an impact on the health of local people, a concern which they said the city council had never treated seriously enough.

Edinburgh City Council said it was confident consultation was carried out as required and pollution levels were within EU targets.

The tram project is now due to be completed by the summer of 2014.

The Aarhus Convention was designed to give the public a stronger voice on environmental matters.

Findings of the Aarhus Compliance Committee are not binding but are highly influential.

Local resident Ashley Lloyd said: "The centre of Edinburgh is a very small place and people live and work very close together.

Edinburgh tram The tram line between Edinburgh Airport and York Place is to be completed by 2014

"What this policy does is it takes the commercial traffic from the centre, where it's trying to deliver to the commercial premises and puts it through residential areas 24/7.

"That's more noise, more pollution and it degrades the operation of the city.

"I believe it also makes the city a less competitive city."

Alistair MacIntosh, local resident and retired engineer, said: "Our message will be that we have not been fairly treated, that we have not been given the opportunity to explain our case to an independent third party.

"The council are acting as judge and jury.

"We have not been given essential environmental information relating to the pollution from the traffic which has been driven through the residential streets and we have not been allowed to really participate in decision making.

"Those are the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention."

An Edinburgh City Council spokesman said: "We are confident that consultation with all stakeholders, including local residents, was, and continues to be, carried out as required.

"Indeed, the residents concerned lodged similar complaints with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, all of which were rejected and found in the council's favour earlier this year (June).

"In response to their specific concerns relating to air quality, the council agreed to establish additional monitoring sites in the area in 2010.

"The results indicated that levels were within EU target values.

"Monitoring is ongoing and the data for calendar year 2011 will be published in accordance with UK guidelines in the spring."

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