020 7650 1200

Canterbury resident brings air pollution legal claim against city council

An environmental campaigner from the Canterbury area has begun legal proceedings against Canterbury City Council regarding air pollution in the city.

Posted on 04 September 2017

Emily Shirley, represented by law firm Leigh Day, argues in her legal case that the adoption of the Canterbury District Local Plan by the city council is unlawful and in breach of important procedural requirements with regard to compliance with air pollution law. 
The Local Plan proposes 16,000 new houses, mostly near Canterbury, on farmland outside the city boundary, with new slip roads, relief roads and further car-use-facilitating infrastructure. Ms Shirley argues that this will result in additional car journeys of up to 112,000 daily (based on the planning rule of thumb of seven vehicular movements per dwelling per day), adding significantly to Canterbury’s already congested and polluted roads.
Ms Shirley argues in her legal case that the impact on air pollution was not properly considered by the council when adopting the plan and that the council failed to assess the cumulative effects of the proposed developments on the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as required by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.
Canterbury is situated in a valley where air pollution accumulates in certain weather conditions. The predominant cause of this is from vehicle exhaust fumes. As a result of this the city was made subject to a central AQMA(1) which had to be extended in 2011 due to the growing air pollution problem.
Ms Shirley states in her legal case the air pollution in Canterbury is so bad that it contributes to 100 premature deaths annually and causes adverse impacts on the general health of the population especially for the young, the elderly and the weak.  Professor Peckham, a Professor of Health Policy and Director of the University of Kent’s Centre for Health Services Studies and Professor of Health Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has provided the expert evidence for the case in support of the mortality figures and other adverse health impacts.    
Emily Shirley said: “Air pollution is the invisible killer. Everyone knows how congested Canterbury’s roads are but few are aware of the dangers of air pollution. For many years, individuals, amenity groups and parish councils have tried to get air pollution reduction measures implemented in Canterbury without success. Challenging the Adopted Canterbury Local Plan in the High Court will hopefully lead to a Plan that will reduce the unlawful air pollution levels as soon as possible.”
Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: "With the dangers of air pollution so much of a zeitgeist issue, it is unfathomable that the City Council is prepared to risk making things worse in its area. You only have to look at the UK's recent commitment to ban the sale of all diesel and petrol vehicles from 2040 to realise how out of step these plans are with current low carbon trends in policy-making. The legal errors we say it has made in formulating its plans only further demonstrate how imperative it is that the City Council goes back to the drawing board."
In order to assist in bringing the claim Ms Shirley has launched a crowdfunding campaign through CrowdJustice to cover any anticipated legal costs.

This is the second legal challenge on air pollution grounds in Canterbury this year. The first challenge, also involving Ms Shirley -  Shirley & Rundell vs Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - was heard in the High Court in July 2017. The challenge concerned the failure of the Secretary of State to call in a large planning application of 4,000 houses on air pollution grounds. The judgment is awaited.

(1) An Air Quality Management Area (“AQMA”) is put in place when a local authority considers that improvements to air quality need to be made, in order to achieve the Government’s national air quality objectives. The local authority then prepares a local action plan to ensure targets are met. The national objectives are designed to protect people’s health and the environment.