A judicial review by the High Court has begun today [4 July 2023], as five Conservative-led councils challenge mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s proposed expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
The councils initiated the legal challenge in April this year, with the local authorities of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey all participating.
The outcome of the challenge is not expected for several weeks.
Though three of the proposed grounds for the initial judicial review were dismissed by a judge, two of the five grounds presented were deemed “arguable”.
These two grounds are the legal basis for the scheme and the consultation on the development of the £110m scrappage scheme, which was established to support certain drivers and small businesses to transition to greener vehicles.
The initial challenge was based on the councils’ perception that the ULEZ would economically disadvantage commuters coming into London, with criticisms including that it would disproportionately impact low-income families.
If the ULEZ scheme is expanded to cover all London boroughs, as Khan has proposed, from 29 August onwards vehicles that do not meet the ULEZ emissions standards will face a daily charge of £12.50.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has accused the councils of “fighting completely the wrong battle” with the legal action.
“They should be putting their energy and resources into bringing down air pollution, not a key anti-pollution measure,” said Areeba Hamid, joint executive director, Greenpeace UK.
Currently, about 92% of cars entering London are ULEZ-compliant, as of the 2021 expansion.
Cllr Baroness O’Neill of Bexley, leader of the London Borough of Bexley, said: “This is a great day for the coalition but disappointing that it has had to come to this. We have called on the mayor of London time and time again to stop his plans for this expansion.
“We know that extending ULEZ will have a detrimental effect on so many of our residents and businesses while the phenomenal cost of bringing the scheme to outer London boroughs could be put to much better use elsewhere in the capital.
“The shameful message the mayor continues to give is that you can go ahead and pollute if you can afford to pay the £12.50. Meanwhile those that can ill afford to replace their cars or vans because of ULEZ will be affected the most. I’m glad this day has arrived and I’m looking forward to the findings of the High Court.”