Environmental law campaign group ClientEarth has expressed concern over a lack of clarity from the Welsh Government over its plans to tackle air pollution, which were outlined last week.
The law firm, which has led successful cases against the UK government over its plans to address nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution in towns and cities across England, has said it will be looking at the Welsh Government’s plans ‘in detail’ to assess whether they may fall short of legal requirements.
Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn announced a package of measures to address air pollution in towns and cities on Wednesday, after the Welsh Government admitted that it had failed to bring forward suitable measures to tackle air pollution at the High Court in January (see airqualitynews.com story).
The plans centre on imposing temporary speed restrictions on five roads where NO2 limits are currently being breached, as well as exploring the potential for the introduction of Clean Air Zones in urban areas where breaches of the air quality limit continue (see airqualitynews.com story).
ClientEarth Clean Air Lawyer Katie Nield said: “We will be going through the draft plans in more depth but our initial observations suggest that they lack clarity and detail. They are plans for a plan, which just set out a timetable for assessing the possible things that the government and local authorities could do. This would fall short of what the Welsh Government had itself promised the court it would deliver.
“Any plan should set out the measures that the government will take to bring air pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible, as well as a rigorous impact assessment to show that compliance is likely rather than just possible.â€?
All four of Wales’ “zonesâ€? designated for the purpose of monitoring air pollution are above the legal limit for NO2, which is an annual average of 40?g/m3.
Ms Nield added: “Whilst we welcome the commitment to implement some immediate mitigation measures in a limited number of pollution hotspots, it remains unclear what additional action will be taken to tackle the issue in the longer-term.
“What is also worrying is what the draft suggests about the Welsh Government’s readiness to submit a final plan by the court deadline of 31 July. According to the government’s proposed timeline, it will not have made a final decision on what measures will be adopted by this date.
“The government needs to accelerate its information gathering and impact assessment procedures to ensure that the deadline for a final plan is met. Any further delay means people in the areas of Wales with illegal and harmful levels of air pollution will suffer for longer.â€?