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Government to be taken back to court over ‘flawed’ air quality plans

Environmental law group ClientEarth is to take the Government to court for a third time as it says new air quality plans have “major flaws” and must be revised.


ClientEarth says the latest air quality plans have “major flaws” and is taking the Government back to court.

Published in May and out for consultation until a week after the general election, the plans, which are due for final publication by 31 July, were expected to set out mandatory clean air zones and a scrappage scheme but instead Defra puts the focus on councils to come up with measures themselves where needed and only use charging for clean air zones as a last resort.

In response, James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said the “flaws” in the plans mean that air pollution won’t be brought down to legal levels in the shortest time possible, as required by the law, and added that it’s taking the Government back to court after Defra refused its call for improvements.

Thornton commented: “These are plans for more plans, what we need are plans for action. The Government’s plans and consultation do not match what its own evidence says needs to happen. If the evidence shows that taking certain measures will be necessary to tackle the public health crisis of polluted air, then the plans and associated consultation needs to make that clear.”

ClientEarth has said that air quality plans must include a national network of clean air zones to prevent the most polluting vehicles from entering towns and cities with excessive levels of air pollution and called into question how the non-charging clean air zones, proposed by the government, will be effective if they don’t persuade motorists to stay out of those areas. It also said that a diesel scrappage scheme is a crucial element of the range of measures needed to persuade motorists to move to cleaner vehicles.

ClientEarth is also launching an online consultation tool to help people respond to the government’s current plan.

Thornton added: “We are challenging on two fronts because of the urgency of this public health crisis. We’re asking the High Court to consider the problems with the plans and consultation. That is now in the court’s hands. In the meantime, it is important for as many people as possible to tell Defra that the plans don’t make sense and won’t tackle illegal air quality in our towns and cities.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.