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ULEZ Defeat for Surrey – Council Leader Says Decision Will Damage Lives

Published on: 28 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2023

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

The controversial ULEZ scheme can now be expanded to the border of Surrey after a coalition of councils lost their High Court battle.

Surrey County Council, together with the outer London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon, launched legal action in February over Sadiq Khan’s proposals to extend ULEZ beyond the North and South Circular roads.

A map showing the London Congestion Charge, Ultra Low Emission and Low Emission Zones. The larger expanded zone will cover the current Low Emission Zone, the light green area, so that it abuts Surrey.

The local authorities’ lawyers argued that the Labour mayor Sadiq Khan lacked the legal power to order the expansion.

Craig Howell Williams KC, for the councils, said there was an “unfair and unlawful” approach to collecting views on the plans and that “key information… was not disclosed” during previous consultation.

Today (July 28) the High Court ruled against them saying there was no legal impediment to the mayor’s expansion.

Tim Oliver – Leader of Surrey County Council

Cllr Tim Oliver (Con, Weybridge), leader of Surrey County Council, said: “Whilst we respect today’s court decision, it is incredibly disappointing.

“This has always been about protecting Surrey residents, many of whom will now be significantly socially and financially impacted by the mayor’s decision as they go about essential, everyday journeys, without any mitigation in place to minimise this.

“Our concerns, which have never been addressed by the mayor despite our continued efforts, forced these legal proceedings to ensure we did all we possibly could to have the voice of our residents heard.

“We met with Transport for London on 14 July 2023 in the hope of agreeing mitigation for Surrey residents. Sadly, nothing was offered.”

The councils said that, while the Mayor of London and Transport for London may now have the legal right to impose the scheme, questions remained over whether the public would agree that he had the moral right to do so – particularly in light of the Uxbridge by-election which they said was a “referendum on the expansion of ULEZ”.

They argue that this shows a lack of realisation on the part of the Mayor of London and TfL over the “damage the extension will have to the lives of residents and businesses in outer London as well as those outside of its borders”.

According to the Mayor’s office,  air pollution causes thousands of Londoners to die prematurely each year and develop life-changing illnesses like cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.

Expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone across all London boroughs will bring clean air to 5 million more people, it said.

The expansion of ULEZ is now expected to go ahead as planned on Tuesday, August 29.

People driving non-compliant vehicles in the zone are expected to be charged £12.50 per day.

What does it mean for people in Surrey?

The extended zone will directly bring in a further 5 million people under ULEZ, this is in addition to the four million Londoners within the existing clean air zone.

According to the Mayor’s office the decision to make ULEZ London-wide was “difficult and not something he takes lightly – and he continues to do everything possible to address concerns (people) may have.

Official figures say the “highly targeted scheme” will help take the the most polluting vehicles off the roads with estimates suggesting “nine out of ten cars seen driving regularly in outer London on an average day are already ULEZ compliant and will not pay a penny when the zone expands, while still benefiting from cleaner air”.

Freedom of Information figures for people living within Surrey postcodes suggest there will be far more people impacted by the changes with as many as a quarter of a million cars potentially falling short of emission standards.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s office estimates the £1million combined cost to councils for bringing the case  would paid for more than 350,000 free school meals.

It could also impact the parents, teachers, and staff at more than 50 schools on the Surrey-London border  from the next academic year.

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Responses to ULEZ Defeat for Surrey – Council Leader Says Decision Will Damage Lives

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 28, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    If Mayor Sadiq Kahn complied with the statutes then the statutes were wrongly worded to permit such moves towards road charging.

  2. Keith Francis Reply

    July 29, 2023 at 12:33 am

    So will the SCC Leader and SCC Councillors be able to claim the cost of ULEZ when visiting any of the additional area now caught by it as a “legitimate expense”?

  3. John Perkins Reply

    July 29, 2023 at 10:05 am

    Official figures claim that 9 out of 10 cars seen driving regularly in outer London are already ULEZ compliant, yet somehow it is concluded that there will still be a benefit of cleaner air. That suggests only 10 per cent of cars are the cause of the pollution.

    What figures are available to prove the degree of success achieved in the existing zone?

    • Helen Skinner Reply

      July 30, 2023 at 6:41 am

      Apparently, some people aren’t really aware what it means. One motorist with a Tesla complained he was going to get charged but his car isn’t what they are worried about. In fact, less than 10 per cent of cars owned in outer London are going to be charged (which includes all the special classics cars people keep as toys).

      If your car is petrol and newer than 2005 (18yrs) or diesel and newer than 2016 (7yrs) then you are unlikely to be charged. Even some older cars meet the emission requirements. You can use the online checker to find out

      While it’s only a low percentage of cars which will be affected, those of us who walk or cycle anywhere will know that you can often tell when they go by as you can smell them.

      If I lived in this area I’d welcome the expansion and would support it being rolled out further.

  4. William Lawrence Reply

    July 29, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    ULEZ has already been a resounding success. Expanding it is an obvious next step if we wish to reduce pollution. Perhaps now we can look at doing something similar for Guildford.

    • Malcolm Stanier Reply

      July 30, 2023 at 8:50 pm

      These zones penalise those least able to afford the purchase of a car that is more environmentally friendly, eg an electric car. It seems that proponents of this sort of measure only see the broad picture and give no thought to how they may affect people in their day-to-day lives.

      • Nathan Cassidy Reply

        August 1, 2023 at 12:25 pm

        That is a bold claim with no evidence.

        In London, it is the richest people who are most likely to own a car. 50 per cent of London residents don’t own a car, yet they and their children’s health must suffer so the rich can drive their SUVs.

  5. Peta Malthouse Reply

    July 30, 2023 at 6:38 am

    The fact is that the expansion of Ulez was one imposed on Khan by the govt. Following covid the losses for Tfl were covered by a loan from govt. The conditions attached to that loan involved raising fares and expanding Ulez
    Ulez is govt policy and has been bought in elsewhere eg Bath and Bristol.Unlike other areas the Govt has not provided any money to London to help mitigate the impact. Khan has found extra money twice in order to help more people.I thought the challenge by SCC a waste of our money and bound to fail.It also seems these issues have been weaponised. Our own local elections were impacted successfully by claims that if elected R4GV would bring in a congestion charge…not true..but based on the fact that all councils are required by the Tory govt to discuss this , ULEZ and other means of resolving pollution. The same applies to cycle paths and pedestrianised areas…Policies the govt now seems to be abandonning..The questions to be asked are…why aren’t the govt supporting Londoners and those who work there to make the change…train fares go up and up yet the people who work on them haven’t had pay rises in 4 years.Ticket offices are being closed and station staff cut making it difficult for people like me to use the rail network.A scrappage scheme should have govt money to support it. They do so elsewhere…Why not London? I think they call it ‘pork barrel politics’ and we have seen it far too often in the last 5 years

  6. Alan Bathurst Reply

    July 30, 2023 at 8:34 am

    its just another rip off of the car driver. When they run out of non-compliant vehicles they will start charging us all because the equipment is in place.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      July 30, 2023 at 5:48 pm

      It’s already documented staff are being employed to implement road charging

    • Peta Malthouse Reply

      July 31, 2023 at 8:55 am

      This was bought about by government policy and the TfL loan agreement in which the Tories told Mayor Sadiq Khan that he must raise fares and get on with expanding ULEZ and the congestion charge. They have rolled this out across the country and made all local authors consider it as a matter of law.

      What differs in London is that they have given no money to the mayor for mitigation of impact on drivers. Andy Burnham has had difficult negotiations about this government policy. I am not up to date with it but Grant Shapps didn’t make it a condition of any loan for Manchester.

      We must tackle air pollution as it demonstrably costs lives. It depends on how it is funded. Mayor Khan has repeatedly asked for the same treatment for London.

  7. Frank Emery Reply

    July 30, 2023 at 9:24 pm

    ULEZ is nothing to do with air pollution or a cleaner environment, it’s all about filling Sadiq Kahn’s coffers for him to waste.

  8. Keith Francis Reply

    July 30, 2023 at 11:00 pm

    Guildford already has its own equivalent of ULEZ called the Park & Ride where residents from my village are quite prepared to take their cars to Merrow and then use the bus for the rest of the journey. But they still suffer the traffic delays getting into or out of town.

    I have previously questioned via our residents’ association newsletter whether it’s the case of not wanting to be seen boarding a bus or alighting from one here.

    I know of one couple case who were quite prepared to go on a coach tour from a foreign port, organised by the cruise company but not sure they want to be seen on buses.

  9. John Lomas Reply

    July 31, 2023 at 8:32 am

    If the charge starts at the border how many such locations have a facility to turn around or turn off?

    Do all the roads crossing the border have signs showing the Border?

    Who is responsible for advance signing to warn drivers of the upcoming charge area?

    Alan Bathurst’s point about the possibility of compliant vehicles being charged is born out by the coming 2025 changes to VED when EV’s will have to start paying it.

    Those operating a vehicle recovery service using a flatbed or trailer should make sure they tape over the registration plate of the loaded vehicle. Greater London has a proven bad record for double charging, ask anyone who has taken such a load over the Queen Elizabeth Bridge or through the northbound tunnel that runs parallels to it.

  10. Dave Middleton Reply

    July 31, 2023 at 9:43 am

    The existing ULEZ has only been a resounding success in terms of generating millions of pounds in revenue from fees and fines for Mayor Khan’s administration, which has had to continuously rely on central government cash bail-outs.

    In terms of air quality for the Londoners living within its current area, the ULEZ effect has been minimal, as will be the benefits of its expansion. The gradual increase in electric and hopefully hydrogen powered vehicles over the next decade or so, will have a vastly more positive effect on air quality, than this unfair tax that disproportionately effects the less well-off of the London boroughs.

    Should a ULEZ be imposed on Guildford? Absolutely not. We are a small town, measuring about 4 miles by 4 miles in size at most, surrounded by trees and open countryside. Our air quality is absolutely fine unless perhaps you chose to stand by the gyratory system 24hrs a day and who does that?

    • Mr Keith Reeves Reply

      August 1, 2023 at 10:55 pm

      ‘Our air quality is absolutely fine unless perhaps you chose to stand by the gyratory system 24hrs a day and who does that?’ Not many people of course, but there are plenty of properties in very close proximity. Dave might also care to reconsider his sweeping statement after examining some of the evidence. For example, the A3 as it passes through Guildford is currently exceeding the Air Quality Limit Value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – see

  11. Eddie Ward Reply

    July 31, 2023 at 10:57 am

    As for the the comment by the SCC leader that the extended ULEZ will affect people’s lives, well so do the polluting vehicles.

    I have to say that I am not nowadays a car owner, so I appreciate the problems that it will cause those who drive the most polluting vehicles. But it is not as though this is a shot out of the blue, the extension was trailed a few years ago.

    I guess that people hoped that it would never happen.

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