Defra reveals cost of air pollution legal cases

The government has spent close to £310,000 on legal fees defending its plans to tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the courts, a minister has revealed.

The cost was outlined in a written statement to Parliament by the junior environment minister Therese Coffey, in response to a question tabled by the Labour MP for Coventry South, Jim Cunningham.


Defra minister Therese Coffey

Responding to the question, which had been tabled to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Dr Coffey wrote: “Defra estimates that the legal fees incurred by the government to defend the litigation brought by ClientEarth are around £310,000. The case is ongoing and so further costs are likely to be incurred.”

Environmental campaign group ClientEarth has successfully challenged the government on two occasions over its proposals to bring the UK in line with EU emissions limits, in 2015 (see story) and 2016 (see story).


ClientEarth was also successful in challenging the government’s attempt to postpone the publication of the latest version of the plan — which was ordered by the High Court to be released by 31 July this year — and a draft version of the plan was published in May.

However, the campaign group then raised concerns over the draft plan, which it described as ‘flawed’ and ‘incapable of resulting in a legally compliant final AQP’.

In a hearing yesterday (5 July), Mr Justice Garnham ruled that the draft plan was ‘not unlawful’, but suggested that the plan could be open to legal challenge if the final version of the plan is deemed not to be sufficient to bring air pollutant emissions into compliance with legal limits (see story).

ClientEarth was ordered to pay Defra’s costs for the hearing, which were set at £5,000.


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