Campaign group ClientEarth in Government pollution plan legal fight



An environmental campaign group today told a High Court judge that
ministers had "unlawfully" failed to explain Government plans to improve
air quality in line with European Union (EU) legislation.

ClientEarth complained that Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman had failed to consult on proposals which demonstrated how the UK aimed to comply with EU limits on levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The charity wants Mr Justice Mitting to declare that plans set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) do not comply with EU law and order Mrs Spelman to publish revised proposals as a consultation document.

Lawyers representing Mrs Spelman rejected ClientEarth's claims, at a High Court hearing in London. They said ministers had carried out a "proper and lawful" consultation and had not breached any duty under European law.

ClientEarth bosses said outside court that 29,000 people "died prematurely" in the UK every year because of air pollution. They said ministers were failing to tackle the UK's "illegal levels" of air pollution.

A ClientEarth spokesman said: "The legal challenge against the Secretary of State has been brought because air quality plans for 17 regions and cities (including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff) will not comply with legal limits for air quality until after 2015. The deadline for achieving these limits was January 1 2010.

"The Secretary of State is under a duty to ensure that levels of air pollution in the UK comply with limits set by EU law. Where these limits are exceeded, the Secretary of State must produce plans to ensure compliance as soon as possible."

He added: "ClientEarth is asking the court to order the Secretary of State to draw up plans that will achieve legal compliance throughout the UK by 2015, and is also asking for a declaration from the court that the Secretary of State is in breach of her legal obligations."

ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: "The Government's plans to tackle air pollution are frankly pathetic. They contain almost no new measures and show that they won't achieve air quality limits until 2025. It's nothing short of a disgrace.

"Instead of delaying action in the hope they can persuade the EU to weaken the legal limits, the Government needs to tackle this public health crisis now."

Stephen Hockman QC, for ClientEarth, told the court today that long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide could affect lung function and inflame airways.

He told the judge, in a written argument: "The Secretary of State's consultation was unlawful. The Secretary of State's duty under the directive was to prepare and consult on an air quality plan that will demonstrate how the UK will achieve compliance with the limit values by 2015.

"(She) must publish and consult on a revised plan which demonstrates how compliance with limit values will be achieved in the shortest time possible and by January 1 2015 at the latest."

Kassie Smith, for Mrs Spelman, told the court that no order was needed.

"The UK believes that it has fulfilled those obligations in the air quality plans that it submitted," Ms Smith told the judge, in a written argument. "No purpose would be served by the court making an order in the form sought."


  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk