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Leicester to get Government help to curb air pollution

Published on Friday, February 23, 2018

LEICESTER is due to get Government help and funding to draw up measures to improve air quality, following a High Court case this week.


The move follows a High Court ruling on Wednesday, February 21, in which environmental lawyers from ClientEarth, supported by councils including Leicester, successfully challenged the Government’s own air quality plans for the third time.


Leicester City Council had provided evidence which ClientEarth used in court, calling for targeted funding for cities – a process known as mandating – to enable the creation of clean air zones and prevent pollution problems from simply being displaced to other areas.


The city council had argued that its own progress in tackling pollution shouldn’t prevent it from being able to access the funding and help available through mandating.


Defra has now confirmed that Leicester is due to be mandated, to set out what measures can be taken to bring forward compliance with nitrogen dioxide limits as soon as possible.


Representatives from the city council are due to meet with Defra on February 28 to hear what help the Government will provide.


Cllr Adam Clarke, deputy city mayor responsible for the environment, said: “This is very good news for Leicester, and mandating is exactly what we have been asking from the Government all along.


“Mandating will set definite targets for air quality in the city, including enabling us to create a clean air zone, as well as freeing up funding to allow us to do this work.


“Evidence we produced was used by ClientEarth in this High Court case, and this is now the third time ClientEarth have successfully challenged the Government on this issue.


“I now look forward to meeting with Defra on February 28 to discuss what measures as part of mandating will make a real improvement to the city’s air quality.”


This week’s High Court judgment was the latest in a line of defeats for the Government over its air quality plans.


Previous plans put forward by the Government had already been deemed illegal by courts, for failing to tackle air pollution adequately in the UK or bring it in line with EU air quality standards.


The High Court had previously heard that nitrogen dioxide levels are still too high in 37 of the 43 air quality zones across the country.


The Government had proposed setting aside £255m to help local authorities improve air quality, along with ending the sale of all conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040.


The latest High Court ruling heard that more action was still needed in 45 council areas across England and Wales, with the Government’s plan described as being ‘seriously flawed’ in those areas, which were not expected to cut pollution to within legal levels until 2021.


Leicester City Council’s own Air Quality Action Plan has already committed to delivering a clean air zone by 2026, or sooner if possible.


Recent Government data showed that while Leicester was doing better than Nottingham or Derby in improving air quality, levels in the city were still above EU limits.


Leicester’s Air Quality Action Plan would look to introduce a low-emission zone for buses and taxis, as well as implementing an ultra-low emission zone that would cover all vehicles larger than a motorcycle.


The plan also commits to extending the city’s Connecting Leicester works to promote sustainable travel such as walking and cycling.