Five councils – Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon, and Surrey County Council – launched legal action over the proposed extension to cover the whole of London from next month.
Those opposed argue the scheme imposes an unfair financial burden on people already struggling to keep up with soaring living costs, while the difference to air quality will be ‘negligible’.
Bexley Council leader Teresa O’Neill said local businesses such as care agencies were fearful of losing staff while those in food and retail were worried of a fall in demand.
‘I’ve been leader now for 15 years… and I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue like this that has actually garnered so much attention,’ she said.
‘People tell you they absolutely hate it.’
Colin Smith, leader of Bromley Council, told Sky News they already had among the cleanest air in London and it is of a better quality than every borough already in the existing zone.
Expanding it, he said, will heap misery on those living there, many of whom have no option but to drive and cannot afford to fork out thousands for a cleaner vehicle.
‘We have businessmen virtually crying that they’ve got to scrap perfectly good vans and spend £20,000, £30,000, £40,000 re-kitting just to keep their business going,’ he went on.
‘We have people in low paid jobs who are physically having to pack up working where they are at the moment because they can’t afford to drive into Bromley to go to work.
‘People who want to keep caring networks in place, look after vulnerable mum and dad, look after the neighbour you used to live next to before you moved away, will no longer be able to come in from places like Swanley and Sevenoaks to look after their family because they can’t afford it.’
He said people’s ‘lives will be ripped apart’ by the scheme ‘because they simply can’t afford it’, adding: ‘What’s worse is it won’t make any difference to air quality – that’s the tragedy of it.’
What is the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ)?
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is planning to expand the city’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) to all boroughs.
Here, Metro.co.uk answers 11 key questions about the scheme and how it affects drivers.
– When and why was ULEZ created?
It was launched in April 2019 to help clean up London’s air.
– How bad is air quality in the capital?
An estimated 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year from conditions related to air pollution, according to Mr Khan.
– How does the ULEZ work?
It disincentivises drivers from using the most polluting vehicles by charging them a daily fee for entering the zone.
– How much is the fee?
The charge for vehicles which do not comply with minimum emissions standards is £12.50 for cars, smaller vans and motorbikes.
Lorries, buses, coaches and heavy vans which are non-compliant are charged £100 under the separate low emission zone scheme, which already covers most of London.
– How do I avoid the fee when driving in the zone?
Ensure your vehicle meets the minimum emissions standards.
For petrol cars that means those generally first registered after 2005.
Most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are also exempt from the charge.
– When does the ULEZ operate?
All day, every day, except Christmas Day.
– How soon after a journey do I need to pay?
You have until midnight at the end of the third day following the journey.
– Where does the money go?
Transport for London says all revenue is reinvested into running and improving the capital’s transport network, such as expanding bus routes in outer London.
– What happens if I do not pay?
You may receive a penalty charge notice of £160, reduced to £80 for early payment.
– What area is currently covered by the ULEZ?
It includes everywhere within the North and South Circular roads.
– How significant is the expansion?
Mr Khan’s plan is to make the zone much larger, covering all London boroughs from August 29.
The zone currently covers all parts of London between the North and South Circular roads.
If the expansion goes ahead, the new borders will reach Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Surrey.
Mr Khan has previously pointed to research showing the introduction of the scheme in 2019 caused nitrogen dioxide levels to fall by nearly half in central London and had overall backed an extension.
‘The independent assessment confirms that Ulez works and the expansion will lead to five million more Londoners breathing cleaner air,’ the mayor told Reuters in an interview.
‘You’re not going to please a hundred percent of people all the time. No politician in history has managed to do so.’
Hirra Khan Adeogun, head of the Car-Free Cities campaign group, told Sky News the legal challenge is ‘a distraction from main issues of the climate crisis and air pollution which can’t wait for us to catch up’.
She said: ‘These are really big issues and I think they’re wasting time and wasting taxpayers’ money on this judicial review when what they could be doing is implement measures which could get people walking wheeling cycling and investing in public transport.’
A YouGov poll last year showed 43% of Londoners supported the plans, while another 8% supported a delayed one. About 27% were opposed and the rest undecided.
The five Conservative-led councils launched legal action in February stating there were five grounds for a judicial review.
They believe ‘relevant statutory requirements’ were not complied with, expected compliance rates in outer London were not considered and the proposed scrappage scheme was not consulted on.
The local authorities also claimed the overall consultation process was not properly conducted and that there was a failure to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of the plan.
The High Court has allowed the case to proceed on two grounds – the legal basis for the scheme and scrappage.
A spokesperson for the mayor said at the time: ‘The mayor is pleased to see the court has refused permission for the majority of the grounds.
‘We will continue to robustly defend his life-saving decision to expand the ULEZ and continue with preparations without delay.
‘It is a shame that some local authorities have chosen to attempt this costly and misguided legal challenge instead of focusing on the health of those they represent.
‘Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely every year due to air pollution.
‘This is a health emergency, and the mayor is not prepared to stand by and do nothing while Londoners are growing up with stunted lungs and are more at risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia due to our toxic air.’
The hearing, before Mr Justice Swift, is due to start at 10am on Tuesday and the judge is expected to give his ruling at a later date.
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