Air quality: Challenge against government plan rejected

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The High Court has rejected a legal challenge against the government’s plans to improve air quality.

Campaign group ClientEarth had brought the case, saying draft measures on cutting nitrogen dioxide levels were flawed and “plainly unlawful”.

The challenge came after a judge ruled last year that government plans to meet air quality limits were inadequate.

But a High Court judge refused the application for an order that a further consultation should go ahead.

Nitrogen dioxide limits were introduced in EU law in 1999, with the aim of achieving them by 2010.

Mr Justice Graham said in May 2016 that the government’s plans to meet the limits must be improved.

Issues with the draft Air Quality Plan raised by Nathalie Lieven QC, for ClientEarth, included:

  • It had not identified measures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • It did not reflect the key findings of a Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) report which found creating “Clean Air Zones” was the only way of ensuring compliance

The High Court judge said he found no reason to rule there had been illegality.

Oliver Hayes, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the government was “increasingly out on a limb when it comes to air pollution”.

He added that without adequate Clean Air Zones pollution was set to remain at illegal levels.

A Defra spokesman said: “Improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions is a priority for this government and we will continue to work towards publishing our final plan by 31 July.”

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Some 37 out of 43 areas in the UK are said to be in breach of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide

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