James Thornton outside High Court

High Court rules air pollution plans must be published before General Election

The UK Government has failed in its attempt to delay publication of its air quality plans until after the General Election.

Mr Justice Garnham today ordered the government to produce the plans after the local elections on 9th May. The final plans must be produced by 31 July.

Reacting to the judgment, ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, said: “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 judge agreed with us that this is a matter of public health, not politics.”

The judge had called the government to the High Court on Thursday to justify its application for a last minute extension to the deadline to produce draft plans to clean up the UK’s illegal levels of air pollution.

ClientEarth won its second legal battle against the government over air pollution in November 2016 when Judge Garnham ordered ministers to produce draft plans by April 24 and final ones by 31 July.

The government’s last minute application requested 30 June and 15 September as the respective extended deadlines.

The government claimed that the general election purdah period meant that they could not publish their draft plans for consultation until after the General Election on 8 June.

However, when pressed by the judge, the government’s Counsel said he could not give the court a “guarantee” that delaying the draft plan past the general election would not have an impact on the implementation of measures to reduce air pollution as soon as possible.

The judge did accept that purdah rules would affect local elections but would not influence the final publication date for plans that he set in his ruling in November of last year, a point which ClientEarth accepted.

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