Wales concedes but UK government contests air pollution case

The judge in ClientEarth’s case against the UK and Welsh governments over illegal levels of air pollution has reserved judgment after a hearing at the High Court in London today.

Early in the hearing, the Welsh government conceded that the lack of a plan to tackle air pollution was unlawful and agreed that it would draw up a timetabled air quality plan for Wales. It will now work with ClientEarth to agree a legally-binding ‘consent order’.

ClientEarth also argued that the UK government’s 2017 plan to clean up air pollution is illegal because it fails to provide any measures to clean up air pollution in 45 Local Authority areas in England that have illegal levels of pollution.

ClientEarth lawyers told the court that the plan backtracks on a previous commitment to mandate charging Clean Air Zones in five towns and cities outside of London: Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.

These zones would discourage the most polluting vehicles from entering the most polluted areas, something which the government’s own evidence showed was the most effective way of bringing down air pollution in the shortest time.

The judge, Mr Justice Garnham, said he would produce the judgment as fast as he could as he knew it was urgent.

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