High Court hears arguments over ULEZ expansion

Image above: The Royal Courts of Justice

Decision due in one month

The High Court has heard arguments over the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plan to expand the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) into outer London.

Lawyers representing five Conservative-led councils challenged Mr. Khan’s authority to expand the ULEZ by varying existing regulations. ULEZ currently covers the area between the North and South Circular roads, but Mr. Khan aims to expand it to include the entire Greater London area from 29 August, encompassing an area three times larger than the current zone.

Under the proposed expansion, drivers of highly polluting vehicles would be required to pay £12.50 per day to enter the ULEZ, with non-payment resulting in a fine of £160. Mr. Khan has argued that widening the ULEZ would enhance air quality in London. But the councils of Bromley, Bexley, Hillingdon, Harrow, and Surrey are seeking to block the expansion plans through a High Court judicial review.

Representing the councils, barrister Craig Howell Williams KC said Mr. Khan lacked the legal authority to vary existing regulations and that this approach circumvented legal safeguards. But the Mayor’s barrister countered, asserting that it was legal to make changes to the scheme and highlighting previous instances of variations made to the ULEZ’s legal orders.

Image above: proposed expansion of ULEZ

Scrappage scheme unfair, irrational and inconsistent, court hears

In addition to the ULEZ expansion, the court also addressed the issue of restricting the ULEZ scrappage scheme to London residents and businesses. The five councils involved in the legal challenge argued that this restriction was unfair, irrational, and inconsistent with previous expansions. Transport for London (TfL) defended the restriction, stating that it was more effective to target the scrappage scheme at low-income Londoners and small businesses in the capital.

The court proceedings also delved into the consultation process and the accuracy of TfL’s data. The councils claimed that TfL’s estimate that over 90% of car drivers would be unaffected by the ULEZ expansion was based on impenetrable data and failed to consider evidence from a larger number of cameras in central and inner London.

TfL argued it provided sufficient information for a fair consultation, with the consultation documents extending over 1,000 pages. TfL’s compliance figure of 91% for outer London was based on its computer modelling program, “Motion,” which incorporated camera data, travel surveys, and anonymised phone data.

The court documents revealed that TfL did not have ULEZ enforcement cameras on trunk roads such as the M1 and M4, including the M4 spur at Heathrow. TfL stated this was not an act of generosity but rather a legal necessity, as it is not possible to drive on these trunk roads without entering areas within the ULEZ charging zone.

The hearing is expected to conclude next week, with judgment expected in the coming weeks. Ben Jaffey KC, representing the mayor and TfL, emphasised that the changes being made to the ULEZ involved applying new standards to different classes of vehicles.