Judge to deliver verdict on air quality plan delay

A High Court judge is to deliver a verdict this afternoon (27 April) on whether the government should be afforded an extension to its deadline to publish a draft Air Quality Plan to tackle nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Lawyers on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the environmental campaign group ClientEarth made representations to Mr Justice Garnham in the High Court this morning, over the last minute application to delay the publication of a draft version of the plan.

The High Court ordered Defra to produce a final Air Quality Plan by July 2017

The government had been ordered by the Court to publish a draft version of its Air Quality Plan by 4pm on Monday (24 April) – before completing a final version by 30 June.

Government has already delivered two versions of the plan, and was ordered to quash its Air Quality Plan for the second time in 18 months in a High Court case led by the environmental campaign group ClientEarth last November.

Purdah

However, following the government’s announcement last week that it is to hold a snap General Election on June 8, it has made a last minute submission to the Court to move the deadline for the publication of the draft version of the plan to 30 June, with a final version then to be published on 15 September.

This morning, Mr Justice Garnham – who had ordered the government to re-draw its air quality proposals following the hearing in November – heard representations from both sides as to whether the deadline should be pushed back to September.

The Court heard that Defra had initially submitted a proposal to delay the publication of the draft plan to mid-May in light of local government elections – due to the need for councils to participate in the consultation process.

However, the Department then sought a further revision of the timetable in light of the purdah period arising from the General Election on 8 June, which it said would inhibit government activity to publicise the consultation.

Lawyers for ClientEarth – which brought the case initially against the government, argued that a delay to the publication of the draft plan is likely to cause further delays to the implementation of the measures after the General Election.

A verdict is expected to be delivered at 3pm this afternoon.