Air pollution – citizen fights back

“An environmental campaigner is to bring a legal challenge over a city council’s adoption of its Local Plan, claiming that it is in breach of procedural requirements with regard to compliance with air pollution law.
The Canterbury District Local Plan proposes 16,000 new houses, mostly near Canterbury, on farmland outside the city boundary, with new slip roads, relief roads and further infrastructure.

The claimant, Emily Shirley, argues that this will result in additional car journeys of up to 112,000 daily, adding significantly to Canterbury’s roads.

Represented by law firm Leigh Day, she claims that the impact on air pollution was not properly considered by Canterbury City Council when adopting the plan and that the local authority failed to assess the cumulative effects of the proposed developments on the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as required by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.

Shirley is crowd funding the case through the CrowdJustice website. She said: “Air pollution is the invisible killer. Everyone knows how congested Canterbury’s roads are but few are aware of the dangers of air pollution. For many years, individuals, amenity groups and parish councils have tried to get air pollution reduction measures implemented in Canterbury without success. Challenging the Adopted Canterbury Local Plan in the High Court will hopefully lead to a Plan that will reduce the unlawful air pollution levels as soon as possible.”

Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “With the dangers of air pollution so much of a zeitgeist issue, it is unfathomable that the City Council is prepared to risk making things worse in its area. You only have to look at the UK’s recent commitment to ban the sale of all diesel and petrol vehicles from 2040 to realise how out of step these plans are with current low carbon trends in policy-making. The legal errors we say it has made in formulating its plans only further demonstrate how imperative it is that the City Council goes back to the drawing board.”

Canterbury City Council has been approached for comment.

Judgment is meanwhile awaited in an earlier legal challenge on air pollution grounds in Canterbury this year. This challenge, also involving Shirley – Shirley & Rundell vs Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – was heard in the High Court in July 2017. This case concerned the failure of the Secretary of State to call in a large planning application of 4,000 houses on air pollution grounds.”