Government fights off new court challenge over air pollution plan


Environmental campaign group ClientEarth is again taking the Government to the High Court on Wednesday following heavy criticism over ministers’ new plan to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

Update: Mr Justice Garnham dismissed the claim on the grounds that the draft plan was subject to consultation and instructed ministers to publish their full proposals by the end of July.

Last November ClientEarth won its second case against ministers after the High court ruled their original air quality plan to be ‘so inadequate as to be illegal’. That plan had been ordered as part of an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton

Mr Justice Garnham ordered the Government to produce a new plan that would bring air pollution within legal levels as soon as possible. Having failed in a bid to delay publication until after the general election, the Government published its draft plan for consultation on 5 May.

ClientEarth is arguing that this does not meet the court order in several ways.

In a statement, the group said: ‘The Government’s own evidence shows that charging certain vehicles to enter the most polluted parts of the UK’s towns and cities is the most effective way of achieving compliance with air quality laws, but ministers consulted on a plan which requires local authorities in England to look at all other options first.’

Under the draft plan, local authorities are expected to develop ideas on how to reduce emissions as well as improving air quality in their own areas. This approach has been heavily criticised by councils and professional bodies, who have accused the Government of shifting the responsibility and not providing adequate funding.

ClientEarth also said the plans fail to provide sufficient measures to clean up illegal pollution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution, which mainly comes from road transport, is linked to an estimated 40,000 excess deaths in the UK annually.


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