Porsche announces court challenge over London congestion charge

Porsche Cars Great Britain has announced its intention to make an application for judicial review of the proposed extension in the London congestion charge, which will see the cost of driving some cars in the capital rise from £8.00 a day, or just 80p if they are residents in the congestion zone, to £25.00 a day.

Porsche believes the proposed increase in the congestion charge for Band G cars is unfair, that the increase – 3025% for Central London residents – is ‘disproportionate’ and that it will do nothing to achieve the stated aim of decreasing emissions in central London.

Commenting on the Porsche action, Andy Goss, Managing Director of Porsche Cars GB, said, “A massive congestion charge increase is quite simply unjust. Thousands of car owners driving a huge range of cars will be hit by a disproportionate tax which is clear will have a very limited effect on CO2 emissions.”

Porsche will be writing to the Mayor this week. The Mayor will then have 14 days to respond to Porsche. If the Mayor fails to respond to Porsche’s letter or refuses to reconsider his plans, Porsche intends formally to submit its application for judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice summary of the judicial review process is given in a separate document to accompany this release).

Mr Goss added, “Not only is this rise completely unfair to many drivers, but it will also damage London based-businesses of all sizes, and successful people from across the world will start to think twice about basing themselves here if they think they are going to be used as cash cows for City Hall. The proposed increase will be bad for London as a whole and will send out the signal that it is not serious about establishing itself as the best place in the world to do business.”

A background briefing on the judicial review process

What is a judicial review?

Judicial review is the procedure by which individuals and organisations can seek to challenge the decision, action or failure to act of a public body such as a government department or a local authority or other body exercising a public law function.

A judicial review be used to seek the following:

Claims will generally be heard by a single judge sitting in open Court at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. They may be heard by a Divisional Court (a court of two judges) where the Court so directs.

Who will be taking this action?

Porsche Cars Great Britain intends to seek judicial review of the Mayor of London’s decision to increase the congestion charge to £25 for cars that produce CO2 emissions of 226g/km and above.

Should Porsche file an application for judicial review, it will seek an order quashing the Mayor’s decision.

Why is Porsche intending to take this action?

The increase in the congestion charge from £8 to £25 – 213 per cent – for high CO2 emitting cars is completely out of proportion with the rest of the congestion charging scheme and the CO2 savings that are anticipated by TfL. The rise for residents in the congestion zone will be even higher – people who currently pay just 80p a day will also have to pay the new £25.00 charge – a rise of over 3000%.

The effect will be to decrease CO2 emissions by only a tiny percentage – a fraction of a percentage according to many estimates – while increasing the cost of living in London and hurting business. In the run up to a hotly contested Mayoral election the proposal appears motivated by politics rather than sensible policy making. TfL itself has admitted that the emissions savings will be minimal.

As one of the world’s leading car manufacturers Porsche feels it is time to draw a line in the sand on this issue. The Mayor of London has not thought through the consequences of his policy which will be bad for London at a time when economic confidence is far from certain.

What are the next steps?

As is required by the relevant pre-action protocol, Porsche solicitors will be writing to the Mayor setting out Porsche’s basis for challenging the Mayor’s decision. The purpose of the letter is to identify the issues in dispute and establish whether litigation can be avoided. The letter will contain the details of the decision which is being challenged and the facts on which the proposed application for judicial review will be based. The Mayor of London will have 14 days to reply.

Porsche will not apply for judicial review until it has received and considered any response to its letter or until the proposed reply date in its letter has passed. In the event that the Mayor does not change his position, the claim form for judicial review – Form N461 – will then be filed. It will include a request for permission to apply for judicial review; a detailed statement of the claimants’ grounds for bringing the claim for judicial review; a statement of the facts relied on and an application for directions. Porsche and the individual claimants will also file all their written evidence supporting the claim and all appropriate supporting material.

The Mayor of London then has 21 days to file an acknowledgement of the claim form which will set out the summary of grounds for contesting the claim and the name and address of any person considered to be an interested party.

After the acknowledgement or 21 days has passed, the application for permission is then considered by a single judge who will then let Porsche, the individual claimants and the Mayor know of their decision. If permission is refused it is possible to request a reconsideration of that decision at an oral hearing.

If permission is granted then the Mayor will have 35 days to submit grounds for contesting the claim and any written evidence.

Once the time for lodging evidence has passed, the Court will provide a list of dates for the hearing.

What happens once the judicial review is completed?

If Porsche is successful, the Mayor’s decision to confirm the changes to the congestion charging scheme will be quashed. The Mayor would then need to consider any new version of an emissions-based congestion charging scheme in light of the Court’s decision.

The party which loses a substantive claim for judicial review will usually be ordered to pay the costs. However the Judge considering the matter has discretion to deal with the issue of costs as he considers appropriate in all of the circumstances. An appeal against the Court’s decision can be filed within 7 days of the decision.