Fresh scrutiny of air quality plans

October 11 2017   | Region: Cymru Wales, East of England, London, North East & Cumbria, North West, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South East, South West, West Midlands

Fresh scrutiny of air quality plans
Government’s plans to tackle air pollution will be subject to fresh scrutiny by four House of Commons select committees, who have relaunched a joint inquiry into the issue.
 
The Transport, Environment, Health and Environmental Audit committees will examine whether Government’s latest air quality plan goes far and fast enough to meet legal limits and deliver maximum environmental and health benefits. Written evidence to the inquiry is invited by 9 November.
 
Environmental lawyer Client Earth, which has taken Government to court several times over its plans for tackling air quality, welcomed the new inquiry. Its spokesman Simon Alcock said: “The joint inquiry shows a commendable joined up approach to the problem of air pollution in this country that the Government has so far failed to grasp.
 
“People across the UK live in areas with illegal air pollution. They deserve for the Government's plans to be properly scrutinised.”
 
Transport Select Committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: “The Department for Transport needs to harness the potential of schemes such as electric vehicles, clean buses and diesel scrappage which all demonstrate that the transport sector is capable of coming up with solutions to tackle poor air quality. Real change is possible if Government leads from the front to co-ordinate an effective response to one of the biggest issues of our time.”
 
Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh added: “Local authorities have said the Government’s plan for air pollution does not go far enough to help the millions of people living with illegally high levels of air pollution today. Ministers will now face unprecedented scrutiny in Parliament to ensure they are doing everything necessary to protect people from filthy air.”
 
Prior to the last General Election, the previous Government sought to delay the publication of a revised Air Quality Plan but was ordered by the High Court to release the document. The plan was published in May and set out to reduce speed limits on certain motorways and remove speed humps from towns with high levels of pollution. It left it to local councils to develop their own proposals to bring pollution levels to within legal limits, leading to accusations that the plan lacked “ambition and detail”.
 
Client Earth took the Government to the High Court in June, claiming that “major flaws” in the draft plan would “seriously jeopardise” the timetable to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest time possible. But the next month Client Earth failed in an attempt to hold Government to account over the plan after a judge ruled that any perceived failings in the plan did not make it unlawful as it was a draft and could be subject to change. In late July the Government announced that new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned by 2040.
 
(Photo: Alastair Lloyd)

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