ULEZ: High Court battle begins Tuesday

Image above: The Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in central London

Legal challenge to take place over two days

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is set to face a High Court showdown this week as he defends his plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to most of Greater London by the end of the summer.

A coalition of Conservative-led councils vehemently opposed to the ULEZ has challenged the mayor’s authority, claiming he acted unlawfully during the process.

The group of Conservative boroughs, comprising Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon, and Surrey, launched a legal challenge in February, contesting the proposed expansion of ULEZ to most parts of Greater London, starting from 29 August this year.

This week, the High Court has permitted the case to proceed on four separate legal grounds, including two additional grounds granted at an appeal hearing in late May.

One of the central issues in the legal challenge is the “scrappage scheme,” which offers incentives for drivers to replace older, more polluting vehicles with cleaner alternatives. Khan has been accused of “irrationality due to uncertainty and inadequate consultation” in relation to this scheme.

The High Court will also examine allegations of a failure to comply with statutory requirements, a failure to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis, and an “unlawful failure to consider expected compliance rates in outer London.”

Despite the legal challenge, Khan and his office remain resolute in their commitment to the ULEZ expansion. They have vowed to continue preparations for the implementation scheduled for August 29. Khan’s primary argument in defence of the ULEZ expansion centres around its potential to improve air quality in London, where poor air quality is linked to thousands of premature deaths each year.

Image above: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan will “robustly defend” the expansion in court

A spokesperson for the mayor of London on Monday said that Mr. Khan would “robustly defend” the expansion in court, while “continuing with preparations” for August.

The spokesperson added:

“The decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide was not an easy one.”

“However, around 4,000 Londoners a year die prematurely from air pollution and Sadiq is not prepared to stand by and do nothing while Londoners grow up with stunted lungs and develop air pollution-linked health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.”

The ULEZ, which was initially introduced in central London in 2019, imposes charges on vehicles that do not meet certain emission standards. It is part of a broader effort to combat air pollution and reduce carbon emissions in the city. The proposed expansion aims to extend the ULEZ boundaries to cover most areas of Greater London, encompassing a larger population and increasing the number of vehicles affected by the emissions standards.

On the opposing side, the five opposition councils have argued that expanding the ULEZ zone would damage local businesses amid an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.