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Portsmouth City Council takes Legal Risks on Air Quality

ClientEarth has warned 100 local authorities their plans for air quality must be robust.

Lawyers from ClientEarth are putting 100 local authorities across England on notice, warning them that they will violate their legal obligations and risk legal challenge if they do not introduce proper climate change plans.
The environmental lawyers are writing to each local authority that is currently developing a new local plan, giving them eight weeks to explain how they will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets and ensure these targets are then central to their new planning policy.
Amid growing pressure for local governments to declare ‘climate emergencies’, ClientEarth launched the campaign in light of the massive shortfall in compliant local planning policy across the country and to advise authorities of their legal duties under planning and environmental law.
ClientEarth climate lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “There is a collective failure by local authorities across England to plan adequately for climate change. Too often climate change is perceived to be just a national or international issue and therefore solely the responsibility of central government.
“Clearly central government needs to do more, as the recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress reports stress. Yet so many of the daily decisions around new and existing infrastructure – such as new buildings, roads and utilities – are made at the local level. All of these decisions will ‘lock in’ an area’s future emissions and its resilience to climate change.

Extract from a Press release from ClientEarth

This should be particularly concerning to Portsmouth City Council since they are ignoring High Court rulings by making statements such as:

In developing a solution to exceedances in nitrogen dioxide levels in the city there is a balance to be struck between achieving compliance with legal requirements to reduce harm to people’s health and the impact that such measures could have on the local economy and resident’s livelihoods. It is considered that the proposed preferred approach strikes this balance.

Air Quality Plan, Progress Report, (Due to be voted on) 9th Sept 2019

The High Court rejected DEFRA’s argument that their plans were proportionate based on the balance of various priorities.

I reject any suggestion that the state can have any regard to cost in fixing the target date for compliance or in determining the route by which the compliance can be achieved where one route produces results quicker than another. In those respects the determining consideration has to be the efficacy of the measure in question and not their cost. (and) That, it seems to me, flows inevitably from the requirements in the Article to keep the exceedance period as short as possible.

High Court Ruling, Feb 2018

The law already takes into account what is a reasonable action. With their current attitude, PCC risks people’s health and lives, not to mention wasting time and tax payer money in a potential legal battle.

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