Controversy over London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) expansion has developed into legal action being taken against the Mayor of London as a judge has permitted the case to be heard in the high court later this year.
Five Conservative-led councils have brought legal proceedings against Sadiq Khan’s plan to expand the ULEZ boundary to include all of London’s boroughs. Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey councils are all seeking a judicial review to scrutinise how the mayor’s decision was finalised.
Sadiq Khan’s plans, set to become enforceable in August, have faced controversy since their unveiling – in a public consultation as many as 80% of people in the affected areas have demonstrated opposition to the ULEZ expansion as it remains an unpopular policy amongst drivers in the suburbs. Critics note the lack of public transport services outside of inner London mean driving is less of a choice in the outer boroughs.
Legal action to prevent ULEZ expansion
Under the proposed ULEZ expansion, those with heavily polluting cars will have to pay £12.50 a day to drive within all areas of the Greater London Authority boundary. Since Sadiq Khan has been mayor, the ultra-low emissions zone has grown from central London to the north and south circular roads. Transport for London (TfL) and City Hall now estimate that air pollution has reduced by a quarter as less than 6% of vehicles driven in the zone are non-compliant.
The judicial review will scrutinise only two of the five grounds the five councils have presented – Sadiq khan’s potential failure to comply with relevant statutory requirements, along with a possible lack of consultation on the £110m scrappage scheme introduced to help drivers transition to newer cars or public transport.
Yet, a former high court judge, Ross Cranston, has asserted his doubts about the strength of the claims being brought against the mayor.
How has Sadiq Khan responded?
The London Mayor vows to carry out the ULEZ expansion which he asserts is needed to tackle toxic air pollution that is responsible for thousands of premature deaths a year. A spokesperson for Khan contended that this is a “health emergency” and it is shameful that these councils are choosing to take “costly and misguided” legal action, rather than prioritising the health of their communities.
The mayor also recently announced the introduction of the Superloop – a proposed network of bus routes aimed at connecting London’s outer boroughs.
As vehicles liable for the £12.50 charge are those typically registered before 2004 (petrol) and 2015 (diesel), TfL believes that only a minority will be liable for the cost, therefore, most communities within the five councils will remain unaffected.
The legal action against Khan’s policy, taken by a handful of Tory councils, appears not have much of a legal standing – criticism for Khan mirrors typical anti-environmental and exaggerated mantras used to prevent changes that will improve the environment. They ignore the impacts of air pollution and attempt to brand the policy to have the ULEZ expansion as ‘undemocratic’.
Along with the need for clean air, the expansion of the boundary is necessary to tackling the climate crisis – Last July saw London’s hottest temperature on record and various fires across the city. Under Sadiq Khan’s pledge to make London a zero-carbon city by 2030, the ultra-low emissions zone acts as an incentive to encourage those who have not yet switched their vehicles, to do so.
Sadiq Khan was elected on the basis that he would introduce a range of green environmental provisions for the city, if the Conservatives oppose these measures, they need to win an election to stop them.