High Court rules against challenge to air quality plan
Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have lost their latest legal battle against the Government, with a High Court judge ruling that the draft air quality plans are not unlawful.
Although the case, which marks the third time that ClientEarth has taken the Government to court over environmental concerns, saw ClientEarth claim that the current plans are “fundamentally flawed” and set out no evidence of any plans for concrete actions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the judge ruled there was “no merit” in the argument that the Government’s plan was unlawful.
However, he suggested that final plans could well be open to legal challenge if they do not deal with some of the concerns laid out by ClientEarth.
With the Government plans having put the onus on local authorities to develop their own measures to fight emissions and only turn to charging for clean air zones as a last resort, the court made it clear that any alternative measures would have to be equally or more effective than a charging CAZ in meeting the air quality limits and reducing people’s exposure to pollution.
ClientEarth said the judgment “was a clear shot across the Government’s bows” while Friends of the Earth said the Government is increasingly out on a limb when it comes to air pollution despite the disappointing ruling.
Oliver Hayes, Friend of the Earth air pollution campaigner, added: “Diesel car sales are slumping. Citizen scientists are uncovering shocking pollution and demanding action. And both the Labour party – who pledged to end illegal air pollution by the end of next year – and the Liberal Democrats, offer far stronger air quality commitments.
“With such a public clamour for action, and with lives being cut short because of the air we’re breathing, the government’s apparent laissez-faire attitude to air pollution is inexcusable.
“It is plain as day that an Air Quality Plan worthy of the name must include adequate Clean Air Zones everywhere pollution is set to remain at illegal levels. This should go hand-in-hand with comprehensive support to help diesel drivers switch to clean alternatives. This is the standard by which July’s final Plan will be judged.”
The Government’s final plans to reduce air pollution in the UK are due on 31 July.