Debate over dangerous levels of air pollution in Leeds set for Supreme Court

The Leeds skyline.
The Leeds skyline.
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A call to tackle harmful levels of air pollution in Leeds and West Yorkshire will be heard at the Supreme Court tomorrow.

The campaign group ClientEarth’s long-running battle against the Government to urge it to drastically speed up plans to deal with dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide in 16 British regions will finally come to a head.

People in areas of Leeds have experienced some of the highest levels in the UK, with Public Health England estimating that long term exposure to pollution contributed to 5.5 per cent of adult deaths in the city in 2010.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been fighting in the courts since 2011 over the Government’s failure to meet EU air pollution targets set for 2010.

In November, the case reached the European Court of Justice, where judges urged the UK to achieve air quality standards “in the shortest time possible” after it was found existing measures would not reach targets until 2030.

Simon Bowens, regional campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth in Yorkshire, said: “Air pollution is having a real impact on people’s health and life expectancy particularly in areas of social deprivation.”

It is claimed that a Supreme Court ruling for ClientEarth could force the Government to ban commercial vehicles and diesel cars from city centres.

Alan Andrews, ClientEarth lawyer, said: “The Government needs to take action. Levels of pollution in West Yorkshire are not only harmful to health, they’re also illegal.”

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said “there is no silver bullet” to improving air quality but insisted it is taking action to reduce pollution through the likes of park and ride sites, Cityconnect and the ‘trolleybus’. She added: “We’re committed to getting people onto greener and healthier modes of transport.”