Court permits expanding London road pollution charge
LONDON - The High Court in London ruled Friday that contentious plans by the city's mayor to extend a scheme requiring more polluting vehicles to pay a daily charge when driven can go ahead next month.
The court rejected a challenge by five Conservative-led councils in and around London that Labour's Sadiq Khan had acted unlawfully with his politically charged expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
The scheme -- first introduced in 2019 and separate from the capital's two-decades-old congestion charge -- requires the most polluting vehicles to pay a £12.50 ($16) toll on days they are driven within inner London.
Its extension to all of Greater London from August 29 has prompted a fierce backlash from many living in and around the newly encompassed areas, who face fines of up to £160 for each day they fail to pay.
It was widely blamed for costing the main opposition Labour party victory in a by-election last week in former prime minister Boris Johnson's old parliamentary seat.
That surprise result has prompted fears both the Conservatives and Labour could roll back on climate change mitigation commitments that may prove costly to voters, amid the UK's worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.
Khan, 52, insists the bigger ULEZ will help improve London's "toxic air pollution", which causes thousands of annual deaths and life-changing illnesses.
The five Tory councils had challenged the legality of his plans on three grounds, including that he had failed to provide sufficiently clear information during a consultation on the expansion.
But judge Jonathan Swift, who weighed the evidence after two days of High Court hearings earlier this month, rejected their arguments.
"The councils' challenge fails on all three grounds and is dismissed," he wrote at the end of an 18-page ruling detailing his decision.
Khan, who has faced pressure from within his own party to pause his plans, described the judgement as a "landmark decision".
He vowed to press ahead with the expansion on August 29 as planned. - AFP