A coalition of five English councils has launched a judicial review to challenge Transport for London (TfL) and the mayor of London’s decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to outer London boroughs.
The London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon and Surrey County Council have brought legal action following TfL’s announcement in November 2022 that it would expand the scheme in August 2023 despite some opposition from certain areas in outer London and beyond including concerns over how it is being delivered.
The coalition will challenge the expansion in the High Court on five grounds: failure to comply with relevant statutory requirements; unlawful failure to consider expected compliance rates in outer London; the proposed scrappage scheme was not consulted upon; failure to carry out any cost benefit analysis; and inadequate consultation and/or apparent predetermination arising from the conduct of the consultation.
Cllr Ian Edwards, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “Our position has remained unchanged from when TfL’s plans were first mooted – ULEZ is the wrong solution in outer London as it will have negligible or nil impact on air quality but will cause significant social and economic harm to our residents.
“We shared this view in our response to the TfL consultation last summer and we’ve said it since when the plans were confirmed in November. Now, we’ll say it in the courts.
“We believe Sadiq Khan’s decision to impose this scheme on outer London boroughs is unlawful – his spending nearly £260m of public money without any cost benefit analysis. Hillingdon, and the other coalition local authorities wouldn’t dream of making decisions in this fashion.
“The predominant effect of ULEZ expansion will be to financially cripple already struggling households, further isolate the elderly and harm our local economy with negligible or no improvement to air quality.
“Investment in improved transport links – on a par with those in areas within the existing ULEZ – is the better way to reduce car use.”
While neither City Hall nor TfL has yet been served with a judicial review claim, a spokesperson for the mayor of London told the BBC. “We will be defending any challenge to this vital scheme.
“The mayor urges the councils involved to abandon this costly and unnecessary legal challenge and instead focus on the health of those they represent.”
Currently, drivers of the most polluting cars have to pay £12.50 a day if they cross the boundary, which is within the UK capital’s north and south-circular orbital roads. The expansion of the zone would cover the whole of London and border areas of Surrey, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.
The announcement of the impending legal action came the same week as the 10th anniversary of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s death. She is the only person in the UK with air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate.
It also came after City Hall released a report on the first year of the ULEZ expansion to inner London, which it claimed had had a ‘transformational impact’ on emission levels and air pollution, and analysis from climate charity Possible, which claimed that several of the outer London boroughs to have expressed opposition to ULEZ expansion rank among the worst in London in terms of the number of electric vehicle (EV) charger installations.