The High Court will allow the Conservative councils challenging the extension of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to do so on two further grounds, in a “step forward for the coalition”.
The London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Hillingdon and Harrow, plus Surrey County Council, had previously been granted a hearing on two of the five grounds they presented when launching their judicial review into Sadiq Khan’s clean air scheme.
They related to a potential failure to comply with relevant statutory requirements, and whether the mayor properly considered the “buffer zone” approach when drawing up his £110 million scrappage scheme.
The two new grounds are whether the consultation on expected outer London compliance rates was unfair and unlawful, and if there was irrationality around the scrappage scheme due to uncertainty and inadequate consultation.
This appears to leave just one final ground, around a failure to carry out any cost benefit analysis, which has not been deemed arguable by the High Court.
The hearing, to be held in July, will essentially determine whether the mayor acted legally or illegally in the way he approved the expansion of the zone.
Cllr Ian Edwards, leader of Hillingdon Council, said: "Today’s result is another step forward for the coalition and outer-London. These grounds are key to understanding the harm the ULEZ expansion will have on our residents.
"The mayor estimated that only one in 10 of vehicles in outer London would be non-compliant but this is proving to be widely inaccurate. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) data shows that one in six cars registered in outer London did not meet ULEZ standards last year, and yesterday a new study by Transport for London (TfL) found that half the vans registered in outer London are not compliant.
"As each day passes the harm that the expansion of ULEZ will cause is becoming clearer and the sheer number of vehicles that don’t meet ULEZ emissions standards in greater London suggests there will be a massive financial impact on motorists and businesses as well as enormous social harm.
"We believe that we’ve assembled a valid and robust case to put before the court and have every confidence that the inappropriateness and harm of these expansion proposals will be given the scrutiny, exposure, and ultimately, the expulsion they deserve.”
Mr Khan was questioned by Conservative Assembly Member (AM) Susan Hall on the SMMT data showing 16% of vehicles registered to outer London were non-compliant, after his and TfL’s claim that the impact would be substantially less.
The mayor clarified that the data to which he had been referring to when saying nine of out of ten vehicles seen in outer London are compliant was gathered using automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras, which he claimed to be more representative.
Nick Rogers AM, City Hall Conservatives transport spokesperson, said: "The High Court is rightly scrutinising whether Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ decision was unlawful and I welcome the news that additional grounds have been accepted by the court.
“From the evidence that has been uncovered, it’s obvious that Sadiq Khan does not have the legal basis to proceed with his ULEZ tax plans, which take money from charities, small businesses and low income Londoners who cannot afford a new car.
“Sadiq Khan should do the right thing, stop work on his ULEZ expansion, and explain his actions to the court.”
A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “The mayor has been clear that the decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide was not an easy one. However, around 4,000 Londoners a year die prematurely from 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.
“We note the court’s decision and will continue to robustly defend action to expand the ULEZ while continuing with preparations for expansion at the end of August.”