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Environmental lawyers threaten third challenge over falling air quality

Words: Huw Morris

The number of UK authorities missing air quality targets has reached a seven-year high with environmental campaigners warning the government that it faces legal action for the third time on the issue.

Latest government figures show that 278 of 391 local authorities in the UK have now declared Air Quality Management Areas, thereby admitting that air quality objectives are not or unlikely to be met. This is up from 258 in 2010.

The rise comes despite the government losing cases in the Supreme Court and High Court over illegal air pollution.

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth, which brought the two challenges, has now written to the government complaining that 45 authorities are not being required to take action to achieve air quality standards despite being forecast to breach air pollution limits. It is threatening to go back to court a third time.

The letter also criticises the government’s lack of progress on key national policies such as changes to the tax system to favour cleaner vehicles, introducing a targeted diesel scrappage scheme, and setting up a “clean air fund” to help local authorities tackle pollution.

“These new figures show that this is a national problem that requires a national solution,” said ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews. “The latest air quality plan simply passes the buck to local authorities, which will have little option but to impose charges on diesel vehicles.

“It is high time that the government kept up its end of the bargain and helped ordinary people and small businesses make the shift away from diesel towards cleaner forms of transport.

“If the government continues to fail in its duty to ensure legal levels of air pollution, then we will be left with no choice but to go back to court.”

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