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UK Government challenged over air pollution plans

Words: Laura Edgar
Vehicle pollution / Shutterstock

Campaigners have launched a High Court challenge against the UK Government’s draft consultation on its plans to improve air quality, saying they contain ‘major flaws’.

The UK Government published a consultation on its plans to clean up air quality in towns and cities across the UK in May.

This followed UK Government attempts to delay publication of the plans because of purdah and the local elections, but the court ordered the government to publish the plans before 9 May.

It placed clean air zones at the “forefront of innovation”, stating that local authorities will be given clear legal duties to develop and implement them in ways that work for their area. The government said it would support efforts by setting a framework for local action and monitoring progress.

ClientEarth, an environmental law group, said that after looking at the plans, it wrote to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to ask for improvements but the department refused. Therefore, ClientEarth said it has “no option” but to ask the court to fix the problems.

The group says consultation on the plans doesn’t include measures the government’s own technical data shows are the best way to bring down air pollution as soon as possible.

James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “We have found some major flaws. The law requires the final plan to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest time possible. These flaws seriously jeopardise that timetable.

“These are plans for more plans – what we need are plans for action.”

If the evidence, Thornton explained, suggests that taking certain measures will be necessary to tackle the public health crisis of polluted air, then the plans and associated consultation must make that clear.

“This is essential so that people can have their say and we get the best possible final plans when they are due to be published, as ordered by the court, on July 31.”

Image credit | iStock