Call to cut deaths by improving poor air quality in Leeds

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CAMPAIGNERS yesterday urged the UK’s highest court to order the Government to produce a new plan to cut harmful air pollution in Leeds and across the country.

They yesterday asked five Supreme Court justices in London to direct that the plan to cut dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air in 16 British regions should be produced within three months.

In November, the case over the Government’s failure to meet EU air pollution targets set for 2010 reached the European Court of Justice.

Judges urged the UK to achieve air quality standards “in the shortest time possible” after it was found existing measures would not reach targets in a number of areas including Leeds until 2030

Ben Jaffey, representing environmental campaign group ClientEarth in its case against the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary, told the judges at yesterday’s hearing that only such enforcement action by the court would provide “an effective remedy” for the “ongoing breach” by the UK of European Union (EU) law on limits for the pollutant.

Barrister Mr Jaffey said: “Poor air quality is a major public health problem in the UK. The most serious breach of air quality standards in the UK is nitrogen dioxide pollution.

“The main atmospheric source of nitrogen dioxide is road traffic, particularly from diesel vehicles. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide pollution causes early deaths, hospital admissions and ill-health, particularly from respiratory illness.”

He added: “The result is substantial numbers of avoidable illnesses and deaths.”

Kassie Smith QC, for the Secretary of State, referring to the application for a mandatory order, urged the court to “exercise its discretion” and not make such an order.

The judges reserved their decision to a date to be fixed.