…By Larry John for TDPel Media.
The High Court hearing brought by five Tory councils against Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) concluded on Wednesday.
The councils argued that Khan’s plan to expand the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) to the Greater London boundary within nine months was a risky move that courted disaster.
They claimed that there was a high likelihood of legal challenges due to the tight and unprecedented timetable.
The judge, Mr Justice Swift, aims to deliver his judgement by July 31, which could potentially affect the Ulez expansion scheduled for August 29.
Inadequate and Confusing Consultation Process Criticized
Summing up the case, Craig Howell Williams KC, representing the councils, argued that TfL’s consultation on the proposed Ulez expansion was inadequate and confusing.
He emphasized that the key issue was whether sufficient information was provided to enable an intelligent response from the public and experts alike.
The consultation process faced criticism for lacking clarity and failing to engage effectively with stakeholders.
Scrappage Scheme Controversy and Allocation of Funds
During the hearing, it was revealed that Mayor Khan had considered allowing motorists living on the outskirts of London to access the £110m Ulez scrappage scheme but ultimately rejected the idea.
TfL’s Ben Jaffey KC defended the decision and urged the court to dismiss the claim from the councils that the scheme’s restrictions were unfair and inconsistent.
It was also disclosed that a portion of the £110m fund would be used for implementation costs, reducing the available amount for compensating motorists seeking to upgrade their vehicles to avoid the Ulez levy.
Dispute over Eligibility and Fund Allocation
The five councils argued that motorists living in the “buffer zone” around the Greater London boundary should have been eligible for the scrappage scheme to help them avoid the Ulez charges.
However, Mr Jaffey defended the mayor’s decision, stating that it was lawful and quashing the scheme would create uncertainty for those who had already received payments.
The dispute also involved discussions on how the size of the £110m fund was determined and how it would be administered.
Legal Order and Consultation Issues
The councils claimed that Mayor Khan acted beyond his powers by attempting to expand the Ulez through variations to the existing legal order instead of drafting a new one.
They also argued that there were significant gaps in TfL’s consultation documents.
Mr Justice Swift seemed to support the councils’ position that the extension should have been established through a new charging order, as the proposed expansion was deemed novel.
However, TfL’s representative, Mr Jaffey, countered by highlighting the precedent of previous variations to the Ulez order and contending that the mayor had the authority to make such changes.
Data Disputes and Enforcement
During the hearing, concerns were raised about the reliability of TfL’s data calculations.
Mr Howell Williams criticized TfL’s claim that over 90% of car drivers would be unaffected by the Ulez expansion, stating that the data was impenetrable and based on limited information from outer London.
It was revealed that TfL had ignored evidence from approximately 1,500 cameras in central and inner London, raising doubts about the accuracy of their estimations.
Mr Jaffey defended TfL’s methods, citing the extensive consultation documents, and argued that their computer modeling program, Motion, provided a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
Additionally, it was noted that TfL did not enforce the expanded Ulez on trunk roads due to legal restrictions.
The High Court case highlighted concerns regarding the timing of the Ulez expansion, deficiencies in the consultation process, controversy surrounding the scrappage scheme, disputes over eligibility and fund allocation, questions about the legal order and consultation, as well as issues with data accuracy and enforcement.
The court’s judgement will determine the fate of the proposed Ulez expansion.