28 JULY 2023 | NEWS

The expansion of the Ultra-Low-Emission Zone (ULEZ) to include all of Greater London is now to go ahead from late August, after a legal challenge brought by five Conservative-led Councils was struck down in the High Court today.

The ruling handed down means that there are now no further obstacles to the plans going ahead. This will mean that all Londoners driving vehicles in the city that do not meet certain emissions standards will be charged £12.50 per day to do so.

Adjudicating on the case, Judge Justice Swift ruled that the plans issued by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (Labour) were indeed “within his powers”. However, he commented that the public consultation process had not been “in-depth”, though it had been “lawful”.

In his statement, he said: “Having carefully considered the decision published for the purposes of consultation, I’m satisfied sufficient information was provided to permit those wanting to respond to the consultation to provide informed responses.

“I’m further satisfied that when taking the decision on the grant to meet the cost of the vehicle scrappage scheme, the Mayor understood the likely provision that would be made.

“While the consultation conducted was not in-depth, it was lawful.”

It comes on top of the existing Congestion Charge, which applies in Central London only. This amounts to between £15.00 and £17.50 per day and is in force between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, and between 12pm and 6pm at weekends. It does not apply in the final week of the year, between Christmas and New Year.

Mr Khan hailed the news, saying: “This landmark decision is good news, as it means we can proceed with cleaning up the air in outer London.”

“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.

“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.”

But the leader of Surrey Council, Tim Oliver (Conservative), decried the verdict, branding it “incredibly disappointing”. Colin Smith, the leader of Bromley Council (Conservative), said: “To the legion of families who will now have to trade in perfectly good cars at significant cost they can’t really afford, for a newer vehicle they don’t want or need, I can only say sorry.

“We’ve tried our very hardest to protect you, but ultimately, today’s judgement does mean that the Mayor has taken another step closer to getting his way.”

It is also understood in Westminster that backbench Tory MPs opposed to the plans have said the ruling does not mean the policy is “right”. It has been reported today that they intend to continue challenging the new policy by whatever means available to them on behalf of their constituents as the next General Election approaches.

The Head of Roads Policy at the RAC, Nicholas Lyes, said: “While the principle of cleaning up London’s air is the right one, it has come at a time where drivers can ill afford to replace their vehicles during a cost-of-living crisis.

“This is being made by worse by new evidence which shows drivers are having to pay far more than they should have to purchase a compliant vehicle on the second-hand car market.”

And the newly-elected Conservative MP for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s seat, Steve Tuckwell, added: “Uxbridge and South Ruislip sent Mayor Sadiq Khan a clear message last week – halt your ULEZ expansion.

“Londoners cannot go on being ignored by the Labour Party, who are making the choice to expand ULEZ, saddling families and businesses with a £4,500-a-year charge – a tax on carers, parents, patients, sole traders and all hard-working Londoners.”

But Dr Anna Moore, who works as a respiratory doctor at a hospital in London, said the policy was “going to improve the health of millions of Londoners”.

She added: “I see patients suffer from the effects of toxic air week in and week out. There is no organ in the body which is not harmed by air pollution.”

The Councils of Harrow, Surrey and Bromley – which have reportedly spent £32,000 of public money in appealing the original court decision – have said that they do not presently intend to pursue their case any further.

The policy is currently due to come into effect from 29 August.

Patrick Timms
Patrick is a freelance translator and political journalist who makes regular media appearances, with a background in educational IT. In 2019, he stood as a Conservative Councillor candidate in Crewe West.


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