Judge rules more needs to be done to tackle Sheffield's air pollution problem


A landmark court case has ruled the Government must do more to tackle the problem of air pollution in Sheffield.

Recent figures showed air pollution in the city is up to two-and-a-half times the legal limit, with some areas having dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Air pollution hot spots in Sheffield where deadly fumes are more than twice legal limit

Evidence of the city's poor air quality was used by environmental lawyers ClientEarth after they took the Government to court last week over what they claimed was a lack of action from ministers to tackle the problem.

Mr Justice Garnham ruled that the Government's current policy on air pollution is 'seriously flawed' and ordered changes.

He said the approach to tackling pollution in 45 local authority areas was 'not sufficient'. The court previously heard that, eight years after the UK was found to be in breach of legal limits on the pollutant, levels were still too high in 37 out of 43 zones across the country.

As a result of the judgment, clean air in the UK will now be overseen by the courts, rather than ministers. It is the third time the Government has been criticised by the courts for its policy on air pollution.

Mr Justice Garnham also ordered ministers to require councils to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution in 33 towns and cities, including Sheffield, as soon as possible.

READ MORE: Sheffield city centre blackspots revealed by campaigners
After the hearing, councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and sustainability at Sheffield Council, said: "I am absolutely delighted that justice has been done in this important court case, especially as evidence from Sheffield Council was submitted to the court and helped them in reaching this important decision.

"When the Government launched its strategy, we said it was woefully inadequate and nowhere near robust enough to ensure the country complied with the law. It's positive that the court agreed with is.

"Too many people, including in Sheffield, live with illegally high levels of air pollution. Polluted air damages and shortens people's lives, especially the very young and very old.

"The Government must now support and fund councils properly and use every tool at their disposal to clean up Britain's air."

Figures showed last year that the concentration of nitrogen dioxide gas breaches the European Union threshold of 40 micograms per cubic metre at dozens of sites across Ecclesall, Crookes, Darnall, Tinsley and other areas.

READ MORE: How clean air campaigners aim to cut pollution in Sheffield
According to Sheffield Friends of the Earth, air pollution is a causing factor in an estimated 500 premature deaths in Sheffield each year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “The judge found that our modelling [of air pollution] is compliant [with regulations] and that our approach to areas with major air quality problems is ‘sensible, rational and lawful’.

"The court has also asked us to go further in areas with less severe air quality problems. We had previously considered that it was sufficient to take a pragmatic, less formal approach to such areas.

"However, in view of the court’s judgment, we are happy to take a more formal line with them. We have already delivered significant improvements in air quality since 2010 and we will continue to implement our £3.5 billion air quality plan.”