The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today confirmed the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand to cover almost all of the area within the Greater London boundary on 29 August as planned, following the very significant High Court ruling that the process carried out on the proposal to expand the ULEZ, including the public consultation, was thorough and the decision was completely legally sound.
The Mayor welcomed today’s important judgment, which allows him to press on with the expansion and will bring approximately five million more Londoners into the zone – on top of the four million Londoners already benefitting from cleaner air who live in the existing zone.
The Mayor has always said that the decision to expand the ULEZ London-wide was difficult and not something he takes lightly – and he continues to do everything possible to address concerns Londoners may have.
The ULEZ is a highly targeted scheme aimed at taking the most polluting vehicles off the roads. Nine out of ten cars seen driving regularly in outer London on an average day are already ULEZ compliant and will not pay a penny when the zone expands, while still benefitting from cleaner air.
The four London boroughs (Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon) and Surrey County Council had been given permission to argue three grounds of challenge against the Mayor and TfL out of five grounds advanced in their original claim. The other two grounds had previously been rejected outright by the High Court.
The Court ruled in favour of the Mayor on all three legal grounds heard in the case saying “The councils’ challenge fails on all three grounds and is dismissed”. The judge (Mr Justice Swift) found that the legal basis on which the Mayor made the decision to expand the ULEZ was sound, and in line with previous decisions on the ULEZ and the Congestion Charge, and that the ULEZ could legally apply to all roads within the expanded zone.
The judge also found that the consultation materials provided all the information people needed about the numbers affected to make informed responses to the proposals. Finally, the judge found that there was no obligation on the Mayor to mitigate the impacts of the scheme with a vehicle scrappage scheme or to compensate for the impacts of the ULEZ expansion, and his decision nevertheless to provide £110 million for scrappage support for people, businesses and charities within the London boundary was sound, and properly explained in both the consultation materials and the material that informed the Mayor’s own decision.
It is estimated that more than £1million of the councils’ public money will have been spent on this court case. The Mayor has been publicly critical of the five councils who brought this challenge, choosing to waste public money fighting a clear air policy. £1million is the equivalent of more than 350,000 free school meals for children in the capital.
The Mayor has made tackling London’s toxic air one of his personal missions since taking office. Air pollution has serious and life-limiting risks on physical and mental health and is linked to asthma, cancer, heart disease and dementia among other conditions. Around 4,000 Londoners die each year prematurely due to causes linked to air pollution, with the greatest number of premature deaths in outer London – and every outer London borough exceeds the WHO’s recommended guidelines for NO2 and PM2.5 pollution.
Mayoral policies, such as the central London ULEZ, have helped reduce the number of children admitted to hospital with asthma and other respiratory diseases by 30%.
Over 90% of the cars seen driving regularly in outer London on an average day are ULEZ-compliant, but for the small proportion of non-compliant vehicles the Mayor has introduced a £110million scrappage scheme to help low-income and disabled Londoners and small businesses.
The Mayor has always listened to concerns raised by Londoners and so from Monday 31 July the scheme expands further so that every family in receipt of child benefit in London (more than 870,000 people) and every small business is eligible for thousands of pounds in financial support if they have a non-compliant vehicle. As of the end of June 2023 there was still £68million available from the Mayor’s scrappage fund to support Londoners.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This landmark decision is good news as it means we can proceed with cleaning up the air in outer London on 29 August.
“The decision to expand the ULEZ was very difficult and not something I took lightly and I continue to do everything possible to address any concerns Londoners may have.
“The ULEZ has already reduced toxic nitrogen dioxide air pollution by nearly half in central London and a fifth in inner London. The coming expansion will see five million more Londoners being able to breathe cleaner air.
“I’ve been listening to Londoners throughout the ULEZ rollout, which is why from next week I am expanding the scrappage scheme to nearly a million families who receive child benefit and all small businesses with up to fifty employees. I will continue to look at new ideas to support Londoners.
“Nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant so won’t pay a penny – yet will still see the benefits of cleaner air. Air pollution is an urgent public health crisis – our children are growing up with stunted lungs and it is linked to a host of serious conditions, from heart disease to cancer and dementia.
“This unambiguous decision today in the High Court allows us to press on with the difficult but vital task of cleaning up London’s air and tackling the climate crisis.”
The ULEZ is a landmark environmental policy as well as a health one. Since the Mayor introduced the central London ULEZ four years ago, it has led to a reduction of around 800,000 tones of CO2 emissions from vehicles across London, helping four million Londoners who live in the existing zone breathe cleaner air – including children in 1,362 schools. Harmful nitrogen dioxide (NOZ) concentrations alongside roads are 21 per cent lower in inner London than they would be without the ULEZ and 46 per cent lower in central London.
Expanding the ULEZ to Inner London within the North and South circular roads in October 2021 led to a dramatic drop in polluting vehicles – 74,000 fewer polluting vehicles every day are seen driving in the current zone, a cut of 60 per cent since expansion in October 2021, and nearly 50,000 fewer vehicles overall are seen in the current zone on an average day.
When the ULEZ is expanded London-wide on 29 August, only drivers of the oldest most polluting vehicles will have to pay the charge. Petrol vehicles from January 2006 onwards and diesel vehicles from September 2015 onwards are ULEZ-compliant.