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High Court rules government must publish air pollution plans before general election

High Court rules government must publish air pollution plans before general election

The UK government has failed in its attempt to delay publication of its air quality plans until after the general election.

In a long-running legal battle, the government had been given until April 24 to set out draft guidelines to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution and final ones by 31 July. It was speculated that those plans could include a raft of measures potentially including:
  • Changes to company car benefit-in-kind tax and other carbon dioxide-based motoring taxes including Vehicle Excise Duty and capital allowances          
  • A national roll out of ultra-low emission zones, thus replicating London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s for the capital from 2019.          
  • A scrappage scheme involving the removal of older diesel cars from the UK’s roads.
However, after the government called a general election for June 8, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs went to the High Court in an attempt to delay publication of its air pollution strategy. The government cited “pre-election proprietary rules” meant that it could not publish the draft plans for consultation until after the general election.  

But, last Thursday (27 April), Mr Justice Garnham ordered the government to produce the plans after the local elections held yesterday (Thursday, 4 May). The final plans must be produced by 31 July.  

Reacting to the judgment, James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, a group of activist lawyers which also runs the Healthy Air Campaign and had led the legal battle, said: “We are delighted with the ruling. We cannot afford more dither and delay from the government. Rather than appeal this decision, they need to get on and produce their plans to bring down air pollution as soon as possible. The judge agreed with us that this is a matter of public health, not politics.”