Courts will hesitate to push EU air quality boundaries

The legal system is ever ready to put pressure on government to meet air quality limits but it has yet to be seen how far the courts will go to exercise their powers to call-in plans

Richard Macrory, emeritus professor of environmental law, University College LondonThe readiness of the courts to put pressure on the government to comply with air quality limits under EU legislation continues to make an impact. Yet a recent High Court decision shows there are limits in trying to over-extend the reach of the obligations.

R (ex parte Shirley and another) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Administrative Court, High Court [2017] EWHC 2306 15 September 2017) concerned proposals by a private developer for some 4,000 houses south west of Canterbury. The city is one of a number acknowledged to be in breach of the NOx limits under the 2008 Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC).

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