Britain loses case to delay submission of air pollution plan

Anita Tucker
April 30, 2017

Within the report was the British government's plan to tackle the relatively high levels of air pollution in the U.K. The high court, on ruling on the government's plan, judged the government's actions to be illegal, forcing the way for the report to be published.

The High Court in London ruled on Thursday afternoon that the draft plan must be published on 9 May, following the local elections on 4 May.

In many towns in the United Kingdom, nitrogen dioxide frequently exceed legal limits that came into effect in 2010 as part of European Union regulations.

"This is a matter for the court to decide once the Government has made its arguments because it is the Government which has not met, and instead seeks to extend, the court's deadline for the clean air plan to clean up our air".

"The judge listened to the government's claims that it needed to delay taking care of public health, but he rejected them vigorously and is keeping the government to the deadline of releasing the final plan on 31 July".

But campaign group ClientEarth, which took the Government to court a year ago over the issue, argued air quality is already a controversial issue regardless of the election.

He added: "The continued failure of the government to publish constitutes a significant threat to public health".

He said that Sue Gray, the Director General of the Cabinet Office's Ethics team had raised "serious concerns about the appropriateness of publishing this in the sensitive period" given the impending general and local elections'.

Britain loses case to delay submission of air pollution plan
Britain loses case to delay submission of air pollution plan

The judge said purdah was "not a trump card" to justify failing to comply with a previous court order to publish the plan. He... "A vote for the Tories is a vote for more air pollution".

Nitrogen dioxide is not as harmful as particulate pollution, but may still be responsible for several thousand premature deaths each year in the United Kingdom alone. Only an ambitious plan will satisfy the public, who for too long have had to suffer exposure to illegal and unsafe levels of air pollution.

"Ministers were dragged kicking and screaming to face the huge scale of this health crisis, but rather than take immediate action to protect the public they deliberately used the election as a smokescreen to hold back their plan", he said.

'Toxic air left unchecked will lead to a rising tide of ill health for everyone, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

In court on Thursday, Garnham challenged the government's counsel on the reasons for the delay.

"Children, people with a lung condition and the elderly will be hit hardest".

Following this, opposition the Labour Party's Sadiq Khan told the BBC: "I am pleased that the government will now have to face its responsibilities sooner rather than later".

There has been speculation the government's clean air plan could include potentially controversial measure such as charges for motorists to drive diesel vehicles, which cause much of the pollution, in towns and cities.

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