Deadline set by Defra for Air Quality Plan councils

Councils impacted by the recent High Court ruling on the government’s Air Quality Plan have until the end of July to submit a feasibility study to the government on measures that could speed up compliance with air quality limits.

A direction issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Friday (23 March) sets a 31 July 2018 deadline for the work by the 33 authorities which had been excluded from previous versions of the plan.

33 councils have until 31 July to conduct feasibility studies to assess measures to speed up compliance with air quality limits

The High Court ruling, which followed a legal challenge by the campaign group ClientEarth, concluded that the government’s July 2017 plan was insufficient to bring the UK into compliance with EU air quality objectives within the ‘soonest timeframe possible’, as required by law.

The 2017 plan called for action in 23 local authority areas where breaches of the legal limit are expected beyond 2021, on top of five cities mandated to establish clean air zones within a previous version of the plan.

Direction

ClientEarth argued that the government’s own modelling suggested there were a further 45 areas throughout the country where action was required, but were not compelled to do so – an argument that was accepted by the Court in 33 local authority areas.

As a result, Defra has now issued a formal direction to the councils, which states that they will be required: “To conduct a feasibility study and provide the Secretary of State with a document setting out, for each road-link within the specified authority’s area projected to have a NO2 exceedance in 2018, 2019 or 2020 in the national PCM model (other than those for which Highways England is the highway authority), the nature of the exceedance and, where they exist, recommended measure(s) that would achieve compliance with the relevant statutory NO2 limit values in the shortest possible time.”

Councils impacted by the ruling include:

Ashfield District Council Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Blaby District Council Bolsover District Council Bournemouth Borough Council
City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council Broxbourne Borough Council Burnley Borough Council Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council Cheltenham Borough Council
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Kirklees Council Leicester City Council Liverpool City Council Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council
Oldham Council Oxford City Council Peterborough City Council Plymouth City Council Poole Borough Council
Portsmouth City Council Reading Borough Council Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
South Gloucestershire Council South Tyneside Council Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Stoke-on-Trent City Council Sunderland City Council
Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council Walsall Council City of Wolverhampton Council

Funding has also been offered to councils affected by the order, in the form of a £1.65 million pot in the government’s £220 million clean air fund (see airqualitynews.com story), whilst Defra has offered technical support through direct engagement with the councils through its Joint Air Quality Unit.