Legal history has been made with the government embarrassed in court again for failing to set out legally adequate air quality plans, with more areas in the North West now facing mandatory action.
Taking the government to the High Court for the third time since 2015, environmental lawyers ClientEarth again won a case against the government’s national air quality plan, which had already been written and re-written by court order.
New action required
The current air quality plan, published in July 2017, requires 29 local authorities across England to produce action plans - which could include Clean Air Zones - by the end of March this year. In the North West this includes Manchester, Stockport, Tameside, Salford, Trafford, Bolton and Bury.
The previous 2015 plan forced mandatory action on just six English councils: Greater London, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.
However, the current plan was again found to be unlawful by the court after the judge declared that the government should also require measures from 33 other local authorities which also surpass legal air pollution limits stipulated by the EU.
The newly implicated councils in the North West include Burnley, Liverpool, Oldham and Sefton.
In a piece of legal history, the judge also ruled that the court should have effective oversight of the government’s next air pollution plan, meaning that ClientEarth can immediately bring the government back to court if deemed necessary.
ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “The judge ruled that the government’s plans were seriously lacking and has ordered urgent and additional measures.
“In addition to the government substantially losing this case, the court has made an exceptional ruling which will allow us to return immediately to court if the government’s next plan is not good enough, to protect people’s health.”
Theresa May’s government has said it will not appeal the ruling, meaning it will now need to increase action on air pollution yet again.