Planning law update: Local Authority being challenged over breaches of air pollution laws resulting in invalidation of Local Plan

Timber framed houses on Westgate Grove overlooking the River Stour, Canterbury
Timber framed houses overlooking the River Stour, Canterbury

Environmental campaigner, Emily Shirley, has brought a legal challenge over Canterbury’s adoption of its Local Plan, claiming that the city did not properly consider the impact on air pollution of development and that it is not compliant with air pollution law.

The Canterbury District Local Plan contains a proposal for 16,000 new homes, most of which are proposed on farmland outside the city boundary. The proposal includes new slip roads, relief roads and infrastructure.

Ms Shirley argues that the proposal would add an 112,000 additional daily car journeys, based on a planning ‘general rule of thumb’ that each dwelling creates seven vehicular movements each day.

Canterbury has been declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) due to its valley situation, which causes pollution to accumulate in certain weather conditions.

Since 1997, local authorities in the UK have assessed air quality in their area by measuring air pollution and making predictions on how it might change in the future. The authority must declare an AQMA if the objectives are not likely to be achieved, and the area could be as small as just one street or much larger. The local authority must then put together an improvement plan, or Local Air Quality Action Plan.

Ms Shirley has raised the challenge using crowdfunding through the CrowdJustice website. She said: “I am challenging the recently Adopted Canterbury Local Plan because it will not reduce air pollution as legally required. In fact, the Plan will make matters worse as a result of the 16,000 new houses, slip roads, relief roads and other car-use-facilitating development.

“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.”

Ms Shirley was involved in an earlier challenge on air pollution grounds in Canterbury this year where she challenged the failure of the Secretary of State to call in a planning application of 4,000 homes on the grounds of air pollution.


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