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In ClientEarth v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  EWHC 1618 (Admin), the High Court rejected the government’s application to delay publishing its draft Air Quality Plan (AQP) for consultation until after the June 2017 general election. The government had argued that consultation on its AQP would contravene the purdah restrictions ahead of the forthcoming local and general elections. In refusing the application, the court ruled that purdah was simply a convention and did not override the government’s statutory duty and legal obligations to comply with the Air Quality Directive. Furthermore, the case fell within the exceptions to the purdah rules in the Cabinet Office Guidance on account of the continued threat to public health resulting from additional delays.
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This decision is the latest in a series of court challenges between by ClientEarth and the government concerning the domestic implementation of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC (the Air Quality Directive). It illustrates the role of national
courts in ensuring the proper implementation of and compliance with EU law. The judgment is also an important confirmation that political convention does not necessarily entitle a public authority to fail to comply with its statutory duties or a court
imposed order, particularly where such failures lead to a continued threat to public health.
The government has confirmed it will not be seeking leave to appeal the ruling. Consequently, it will have to publish its draft AQP by 9 May 2017. Developers promoting development projects with air quality implications
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