Clean air plan published during purdah after court ruling
Government is considering a scrappage scheme for more polluting cars, draft strategy reveals
The government has published its consultation on options to improve air quality in towns and cities after a court insisted that Whitehall could not wait until after the election to set out some proposals.
The document, published by the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs alongside the Department for Transport, sets out plans to mandate local authorities to create and implement comprehensive Clean Air Zone plans to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels.
Following a legal challenge intended to get the government to bring forward plans to address the UK’s air quality, which is in breach of European Union air quality rules, ministers were under a court direction to produce draft measures by 24 April.
After prime minister Theresa May called a general election for 8 June, the government asked the High Court to allow them to breech this deadline in order to meet pre-election purdah rules. These limit the policy decisions that an administration can take during an election period in order to ensure governments not to bind successor administrations.
However, judges eventually ruled that the government should set out the options that it is considering in the plan.
The consultation document, published on Friday afternoon, stated the government is planning to task councils with a duty to take action in their local area that will bring pollution levels within the legal limits “within the shortest time possible”.
They are urged to develop “creative solutions”, including the use of new technologies, retrofitting vehicles and using alternative fuels. The consultation document highlighted these could be developed in a way that would also support the government’s industrial strategy so the schemes also benefit local businesses.
It also revealed that the government is considering a creating a scrappage scheme for diesel vans or cars, targeted on older, more polluting vehicles, to contribute to the cost of purchasing a cleaner vehicle.
“Such a scheme would have to be targeted at those most in need of support and be limited in scope,” the document stated.
“In devising mitigation measures, it will be important to consider the viability of any scheme and its overall cost. If, following this consultation, scrappage is identified as an appropriate mitigation measure, any scheme would need to provide value for money, targeted support where it was most needed, be deliverable at local authority level and minimise the scope for fraud.”
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