The Government has been warned that it could face fresh legal action after it said that it would delay air pollution plans until after the election.
It was given until 4pm today by the courts to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution – caused largely by diesel emissions.
On Friday the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), lodged a new application with the High Court to hold up the publication until after June 8.
Unsurprisingly campaigners and environmental lawyers were angered by the decision.
James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, said:
“These plans are essential to safeguard public health and they should be put in place without delay. This is not a political issue but a public health issue.
“Whichever party is in power, the British public needs to see an air quality plan which relies on good scientific evidence and which ensures that people no longer have to breathe toxic air and suffer the grave consequences to their health as a result.”
Defra argued however that the move was necessary so that it could comply with election purdah rules on announcements during elections.
ClientEarth said that it was considering whether to challenge the application.
Thornton continued, saying that:
“We are still examining our next steps. This is a question of public health and not of politics and for that reason we believe that the plans should be put in place without delay.
“Whichever party ends up in power after the June 8 will need this air quality plan to begin finally to tackle our illegal levels of pollution and prevent further illness and early deaths from poisonous toxins in the air we breathe.”
It has been five months since the Government was ordered to draft and publish the plan.