William Eichler 05 May 2017

Whitehall’s clean air proposals ‘passing buck’ to councils

The Government is ‘passing the buck’ to local authorities with ‘weak’ proposals to tackle air pollution, environmental lawyers say.

Whitehall this afternoon published a draft plan for consultation to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide levels in the UK.

Ministers were forced to come up with the new proposals after the courts ruled previous plans illegal.

The Government said the options contained within the plans are designed to reduce the impact of diesel vehicles and accelerate the move to cleaner transport.

They said councils would be expected ‘to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on the motorist.’

Among a series of options, the Government’s plans include non-charging clean air zones, areas where targeted action can be taken to improve air quality.

‘We are continuing to study the Government’s latest air quality plan, but on the face of it it looks much weaker than we had hoped for,’ said James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, the legal firm that took Whitehall to court over air pollution.

‘The court ordered the Government to take this public health issue seriously and while the Government says that pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health, we will still be faced with illegal air quality for years to come under these proposals.’

‘There needs to be a national network of clean air zones which prevent the most polluting vehicles from entering the most illegally polluted streets in our towns and cities,’ he continued.

‘We fail to see how the non-charging clean air zones, proposed by the Government, will be effective if they don’t persuade motorists to stay out of those areas. The Government seems to be passing the buck to local authorities rather than taking responsibility for this public health emergency.

‘The Government has also failed to commit to a diesel scrappage scheme and this is a crucial element of the range of measures needed to persuade motorists to move to cleaner vehicles.’

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