Five Tory-led councils’ High Court challenge against London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion plan has been rejected, giving the green light for the scheme’s extension. The legal setback adds fuel to the already raging civil war within the Labour Party amid a pressing cost of living crisis. Motorists across Greater London can expect to pay a £12.50 daily fee to use their cars if they don’t meet emission standards from August 29th. The Mail has the story:
The ruling by Mr. Justice Swift also follows last week’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary by-election, where Labour’s failure to win former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s seat was blamed on concerns from voters around the expansion of Ulez.
Mr. Khan confirmed today that he would now “proceed” with the expansion in 32 days’ time as planned – in defiance of senior Labour figures fearful of the political impact.
The court has not yet said whether there will be grounds to appeal for the councils – with Ulez now set to reach Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Surrey.
Giving a summary of his ruling, Mr. Justice Swift said: “I am satisfied that the Mayor’s decision to expand the Ulez area by amendment of the present road charging scheme, rather than by making an entirely new… scheme, was within his powers.”
The judge added that, having “carefully considered” the consultation process, he was satisfied that enough information was given for people who wished to respond to provide “informed responses”.
He also said the consultation on the scrappage scheme was “not in depth”, but was “lawful”.
At a hearing earlier this month, the local authorities’ lawyers argued Mr. Khan lacked the legal power to order the expansion of the zone by varying existing regulations.
Craig Howell Williams KC, for the councils, said there was an “unfair and unlawful” approach to collecting views on the plans and that “key information… was not disclosed” during previous consultations.
The barrister added that plans for a £110 million scheme to provide grants supporting the scrapping of non-Ulez compliant vehicles were also unlawful because a “buffer zone” for “non-Londoners” affected by the extended charging zone was not considered.
But the Mayor’s legal team rejected the bid to quash his November 2022 decision to extend Ulez to all of London’s boroughs, arguing the move was “entirely lawful” and that “ample information” was provided for a “fair consultation”.
Ben Jaffey KC, representing the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) – an interested party in the case – said the “primary objective” of the Ulez expansion was “to improve London’s air quality, in particular reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates”.
The barrister said Mr. Khan’s decisions “will help to get London’s air quality closer to legal limits, where they are exceeded, and World Health Organisation guideline levels everywhere”.
Reacting to his victory, Mr. Khan said today: “This landmark decision is good news as it means we can proceed with cleaning up the air in outer London on August 29th.
“The decision to expand the Ulez was very difficult and not something I took lightly, and I continue to do everything possible to address any concerns Londoners may have.
“The Ulez has already reduced toxic nitrogen dioxide air pollution by nearly half in Central London and a fifth in Inner London. The coming expansion will see five million more Londoners being able to breathe cleaner air.
“I’ve been listening to Londoners throughout the Ulez rollout, which is why from next week I am expanding the scrappage scheme to nearly a million families who receive child benefit and all small businesses with up to 50 employees. I will continue to look at new ideas to support Londoners.
“Nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant so won’t pay a penny – yet will still see the benefits of cleaner air. Air pollution is an urgent public health crisis – our children are growing up with stunted lungs and it is linked to a host of serious conditions, from heart disease to cancer and dementia.
“This unambiguous decision today in the High Court allows us to press on with the difficult but vital task of cleaning up London’s air and tackling the climate crisis.”
Worth reading in full.