Senior Greenwich councillors have welcomed today’s court ruling in favour of Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion – which clears the way for the anti-pollution scheme to cover all 32 boroughs from August 29.
Aidan Smith, the cabinet member for regeneration, said on social media that the £12.50 charge for the most polluting vehicles “will soon be accepted as the common sense it is”.
“People have a right to clean air and this is an important step towards it,” he said. “Change is hard, but the success of ULEZ in inner London shows that it will be worth it.”
The borough’s Labour leader, Anthony Okereke, said that Khan was “a mayor that will fight for the health of Londoners and fight for the health of our children. The task of cleaning up London’s air and tackling the climate crisis is a vital one and our mayor is ready for the challenge.”
ULEZ already covers the area within the South and North Circular roads, but will be expanded to the borders of Greater London in four and a half weeks, meaning all of Greenwich borough will be covered.
Neighbouring Bexley and Bromley had joined a court action against the expansion, but Mr Justice Smith ruled at the High Court today that the decision was within the powers of the London mayor.
The two councils, together with Harrow and Hillingdon as well as Surrey County Council, had been unhappy with the consultation into the expansion. But the judge ruled that “while the consultation conducted was not in-depth, it was lawful”.
Khan said today that the estimated legal bill for the five councils could be as much as £1 million. A scrappage scheme will be expanded next week to include nearly a million families who receive child benefit and all small businesses with up to 50 employees. But a continuing bone of contention is that the scrappage scheme is only available to Greater London residents – not those who live outside the capital but work in its suburbs.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“Nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant so won’t pay a penny – yet will still see the benefits of cleaner air. Air pollution is an urgent public health crisis – our children are growing up with stunted lungs and it is linked to a host of serious conditions, from heart disease to cancer and dementia.”
The five Conservative councils said they would accept the court’s decision. Baroness O’Neill, the leader of Bexley Council, called on the mayor to delay the expansion.
She said: “I’m extremely disappointed at the outcome of the judicial review and the impact it will have on our residents and businesses. They have told us time and time again how worried they were about ULEZ which was why we took this action on their behalf.
“The fact that the mayor of London has got his way and that his ULEZ expansion plan is to go ahead is devastating for the whole of outer London. This is especially true for Bexley because of our lack of transport links.
“I’m sure that jobs and businesses will also feel the effect as less out-of-borough residents will want to come to work or shop in Bexley because of this new charge.
“I know from speaking to carers who have to travel in and out of the borough to visit family members on a regular basis that they will be one of the groups who will suffer most.”
Colin Smith, the leader of Bromley Council, said: “Today’s decision cannot be disguised as anything other than bitter disappointment for motorists in general, traders who will now have to consider ceasing business and laying off staff, those who will now have to change jobs and, most desperately of all, people who will no longer be able to support vital care networks for vulnerable people across the whole of outer London in particular.
“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.”
Updated on Sunday morning to add Anthony Okereke quote.
More details about the scrappage scheme are on the Transport for London website.