Court to consider Government's delay on revealing air pollution plan

Court to consider Government's delay on revealing air pollution plan

The Government must publish its plan to tackle lethal air pollution in Birmingham and other major cities by next Friday the High Court has ruled.

It ordered the draft plans to be published on May 9, five days after the local elections, but before the general election on June 8.

The Government has been told it must publish its plan to clear up the country's air after losing a High Court bid to delay its release.

On Thursday, he applied on behalf of the government to delay publishing the draft air quality plan and consultation until 30 June and the final policy until 15 September.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at environmental group WWF, said he was pleased the court had ruled the decision "is far too important to delay".

"These steps are necessary in order to safeguard public health ... the continued failure of the government to comply with the European Union directive and regulation constitutes a significant threat to public health".

"It is an issue in this election whether the Government publishes the consultation or not".

At the High Court last November, Mr Justice Garnham declared that the 2015 Air Quality Plan (AQP) was legally flawed. "We have said that this is a public health issue and not a political issue", said Anna Heslop, clean air lawyer for ClientEarth, which brought the case against the government.

Under the plan ministers must set out their proposals to reduce the illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution to meet strict European Union air quality limits.

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Courts had given the government until Monday 24 April to set out draft guidelines to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.

They argued that publication would fall foul of election "purdah" rules. "Air pollution is a serious public health crisis and must be an urgent priority for the next government".

The government's response to the UK's illegal air quality-which is believed to contribute to 40,000-50,000 premature deaths and total costs of £27.5 billion per year-has been interminable.

The Government said it would seek grounds to appeal against the ruling.

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

Gareth Redmond-King from conservation charity WWF said new research showed how quickly risky toxins got into the bloodstream from the air.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said the verdict meant the government "will now have to face its responsibilities sooner rather than later".

Khan added: "I hope that after this appalling delay, this Government delivers a strong plan to finally get a grip on this issue and urgently introduces a diesel scrappage fund to rid our streets of the dirtiest cars, and provide financial incentives to encourage people to buy the cleanest vehicles".

'In reality, air pollution is an election issue with or without publication of this plan, and we clearly need robust commitments from all parties on tackling the UK's toxic air'.

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