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October 21, 2015

Air quality is a local concern

The recent scandal involving Volkswagen misleading its customers into thinking they were being (relatively) environmentally conscientious  by choosing to drive their cars, has placed a new spotlight on the issue of air pollution – particularly within our cities. This is a difficult issue for communities to become active around both because the science is complicated and the evidence often invisible. A community council in Glasgow has just won a landmark legal ruling that will hopefully encourage others to follow suit.


Hillhead Community Council

Hillhead Community Council (HCC) has succeeded in their appeal against Glasgow City Council (GCC) brought to the Court of Session under the Road Traffic Act. The council have announced they have withdrawn from the case.  HCC will now sign its agreement to the withdrawal, which also asks the judge to quash the Road Traffic Order that would have imposed a controversial new parking scheme in the Hillhead area.

Amongst their grounds of appeal was the adverse effect on the air quality in the local area from increased traffic. The impact on air quality had not been assessed by the council prior to implementing changes. This important case is the first successful one of its kind in Scotland.  HCC’s decision to take Glasgow City Council to court was taken reluctantly. It exposed volunteer community councillors to the potential of considerable personal financial risk. 

The appeal was lodged because HCC believed that serious objections and complaints from the local community were ignored.  HCC considered that the revised proposals would bring more traffic into the area, creating a traffic hotspot and increasing the problem of already serious air pollution to the  disadvantage of residents, businesses, young people and visitors alike.

There are good public transport links in place and it is council policy to discourage car travel. A previous court hearing awarded a protective costs order to HCC and the council will no cover all costs in this settlement. 

HCC had to satisfy the court that the case was in the public interest, that it was of much wider than local significance.  HCC are aware parking is a difficult and sensitive subject for local authorities and call for a more consultative and co-operative approach to any review affecting communities than took place in this case.  Local communities are best placed to identify problems or snags in proposals.