Sadiq Khan hails his landmark High Court victory allowing Ulez to expand across London as 'good news'

28 July 2023, 10:09 | Updated: 28 July 2023, 11:25

Sadiq Khan has won his High Court battle
Sadiq Khan has won his High Court battle. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Sadiq Khan's plans to expand Ulez throughout London are lawful and can proceed, the High Court has ruled.

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Five Tory councils, including four London boroughs, challenged his bid by saying he did not have the power to expand the zone, which is designed to reduce air pollution in the capital.

Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon councils argued with Surrey County Council that Mr Khan did not have the power to expand it from covering much of central London to the rest of the capital.

Their lawyer had argued in July that Khan was simply creating a "master charging scheme".

But the mayor, who plans to expand the zone later this year, successfully argued his Ulez plans were legally within his gift.

Speaking after the judgement was published, he said: "This landmark decision is good news as it means we can proceed with cleaning up the air in outer London on 29 August.

David Lammy reacts as ULEZ is ruled lawful

"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 50 employees.

"I will continue to look at new ideas to support Londoners."

Sadiq Khan hailed the High Court win as a "landmark decision"
Sadiq Khan hailed the High Court win as a "landmark decision". Picture: Alamy
Ulez expansion has been bitterly opposed
Ulez expansion has been bitterly opposed. Picture: Alamy

He has championed Ulez by saying it is essential to improve air quality, frequently citing figures he says demonstrate premature deaths due to complications associated with pollution.

Transport for London has estimated about 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans on the capital's roads are liable to pay the fee.

Cars, motorbikes, vans, minibuses and specialist vehicles must pay a £12.50 daily charge to go through the zone if they don't qualify.

Some discounts and exemptions can apply.

Furious motorists have railed against the plans, criticising Khan for adding more costs to drive during a cost of living crisis and disputing the environmental science behind the policy.

They have demonstrated throughout the capital, demanding he halt the expansion.

It is his most controversial policy since becoming London mayor and was blamed for costing Labour the chance to win Boris Johnson's old seat of Uxbridge, in west London, from the Tories.

The Conservatives declared that by-election a referendum on Ulez and managed to cling on by hundreds of votes, and it led to questions over whether the Tories and Labour would look to distance themselves from green campaigns.

Khan's Tory rival in the upcoming mayoral election in London, Susan Hall, has vowed to scrap the scheme if she took office in City Hall.

She said: "While it is a shame the High Court did not find the ULEZ expansion to be unlawful, there is no denying that Sadiq Khan's plans will have a devastating impact on families and businesses across the city.

"If I am elected Mayor, I will stop the ULEZ expansion on day one and set up a £50m pollution hotspots fund to tackle the issue where it is, instead of taxing people where it isn't."

She also urged councils to follow Hertfordshire County Council's decision to ban London from putting up Ulez signs in their areas.

The opposing councils had complained about the consultation process as well as whether the scheme's expansion was within the mayor's powers.

Mr Justice Swift said in his judgement: "I am satisfied that the mayor's decision to expand the Ulez area by amendment of the present road charging scheme, rather than by making an entirely new ... scheme, was within his powers."

He also said he was satisfied enough information was given to respondents during the consultation period, and that while a consultation scheme on scrappage was not "in depth" it was still lawful.

But the councils vowed to continue their fight.

Cllr Colin Smith, the leader of Bromley Council, said the judgement was a "bitter disappointment" to motorists, traders, workers and carers, and added he would turn to Parliament to intervene in September when it returns from the summer recess.

"To all of them as well as the legion of families who will now have to trade in perfectly good cars at significant cost they can't really afford, for a newer vehicle they don't want or need, I can only say sorry.

"We've tried our very hardest to protect you but ultimately, today's judgement does mean that the Mayor has taken another step closer to getting his way."

Updates to follow