An action plan for dealing with the UK’s air pollution problem cannot be put off until after the general election, the High Court has ruled.
Having called a snap election for June 8, the Conservatives last week applied to extend the April 24 deadline for submitting its plans for complying with European Union (EU) standards around air quality and nitrogen dioxide limits.
But the attempt failed, with a judge ruling the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ failure to meet the deadline imposed last year was unacceptable, given the serious nature of the issue at hand.
The government used the argument that “purdah” rules should come into force.
This is where the announcement of something which could affect the outcome of an election is ordered to be delayed.
The Department insisted that its draft guidelines be published on June 30, with a final report ready for publication on September 15.
But its case could not be made, with environmental lawyers Client Earth arguing the case – rather than being a political one – was health related, to which the judge agreed.
The judge concluded that the government couldn’t guarantee that postponing publication would not impede the timeline of implementation for new clean air measures.
The draft must now be submitted by May 9, with the full report by July 31.
James Thornton, CEO of Client Earth, said after the hearing: “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 Department is now “considering the judgement” and has not made clear if it will appeal the verdict.